Ex-first lady registers as independent candidate in Mexico

FILE - In this April 14, 2012 file photo, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon and his wife, first lady Margarita Zavala arrive for the opening ceremony of the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Zavala announced Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, she is resigning from the conservative National Action Party, known as the PAN. She had announced her intention to run for the party's presidential nomination, but found herself in open conflict with party leader Ricardo Anaya, who also wants the nomination. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican former first lady Margarita Zavala said Thursday she will try to collect more than 866,000 signatures to run as an independent candidate for president next year.

Zavala is the wife of ex-President Felipe Calderon, who governed from 2006 to 2012. She has formally registered her candidacy and will need to collect the huge quantity of signatures in just over half of Mexico's states by Feb. 12.

"I know well that the path we have taken will be difficult," Zavala said as she registered, adding that she was putting herself "in the hands of the citizens."

The former first lady resigned last week from the conservative National Action Party, calling its leadership anti-democratic.

A total of 39 people, ranging from the practically unknown to the current governor of the border state of Nuevo Leon, have preregistered as independent candidates for the country's presidential elections on July 1, 2018. All would still need to collect the same number of signatures to appear on the ballot.

But the sheer number of independent hopefuls has raised questions about whether their efforts will divide the opposition, boosting the widely disliked Institutional Revolutionary Party of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Emilio Alvarez Icaza, a former human rights official, decided not to run as an independent candidate last week, noting a strategy among a large number of independents "to fragment and divide the vote."

"I have decided that I won't be a tool of the PRI's interests and strategies, and for that reason I won't be just one more independent candidate," Alvarez Icaza wrote in an open letter. "Far from contributing to building confidence, they represent the oldest style of politics, with people putting their personal interests first."

The deadline for registering as an independent candidate is Saturday.

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