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Mexico's ruling Morena party elects leader after fractious race

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The ruling Morena party of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador late on Friday chose a new leader, Mario Delgado, after two previous failed attempts characterised by bitter infighting.

FILE PHOTO: Lawmaker Mario Delgado (L) of the ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena) chats at the Congress in Mexico City, Mexico December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

Mario Delgado, a centrist leading Morena in the lower house of Congress, claimed victory over veteran political operator Porfirio Munoz Ledo, who has been critical of Lopez Obrador on certain issues.

Delgado won by taking 58.6% of the vote to 41.4% for Munoz Ledo, the El Universal newspaper said, citing Morena lawmakers.

But in a sign of the underlying tensions that have spilt out in the open within Lopez Obrador’s party, leftist Munoz Ledo, 87, disputed the result by saying it was “illegal”.

“Today unity wins,” Delgado, claiming victory, said on his Twitter account. “We are going to keep working so that our movement continues to conquer new spaces and advances the (Morena) transformation project.”

The previous poll was declared a tie, with both candidates accusing each other of trying to gain control of the party illegitimately.

Their ugly fight has come to represent the tensions roiling Morena, a party created by Lopez Obrador in 2014. A wide range of politicians with sometimes clashing ideologies joined Morena as the party gained momentum on way to its dominant 2018 national elections triumph by Lopez Obrador.

The fissures in the party may pose a threat to Morena’s electoral performance at the 2021 mid-term elections, where the party hopes to maintain its tight grip on Congress.

Delgado, 58, is seen to be close to both Mexico’s president and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who some see as a potential successor to Lopez Obrador when his six-year term finishes. Mexican leaders can only serve one term.

Munoz Ledo was aiming to become the leader of the third Mexican party, having headed the Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for seven decades as well as opposition Democratic Revolution Party.

Writing by Drazen Jorgic, Editing by Franklin Paul