Business Interests Buoyed by Calderon Election Lead

Mexico's stock market posted strong gains after Felipe Calderon, the free-market, center-right candidate, declared himself victor in that country's presidential election. But his main opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is refusing to concede. An official vote count starts Wednesday.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Mexico's stock market rose nearly five percent yesterday on news that Felipe Calderon, the conservative candidate, claimed victory in that country's presidential election. Which does not mean the contest is over.

An official count begins tomorrow, and the world markets will be watching closely, as NPR's Adam Davidson reports.

ADAM DAVIDSON reporting:

Mexico has the world's 14th largest economy, way above, say, Saudi Arabia and all but four European countries. It's the second largest U.S. trading partner, ahead of China. So investors all over the U.S. and the world are quite interested in the Mexican elections.

Professor RICARDO HAUSMAN (Economic Development, Harvard University): It will affect who decides to move their operations to Mexico, who decides to bet on the Mexican investment proposition.

DAVIDSON: Ricardo Hausman runs Harvard's Center for International Development. He says pretty much every business person hopes Felipe Calderon wins. It's a bit of a no-brainer. He's the pro-business candidate with a free market orientation.

But, Hausman says, a win by left-leaning Lopez Obrador could be better for Mexican business in the long run.

Prof. HAUSMAN: There's an old Brazilian joke that says that politics is played like the violin, that you take it with the left but you play it with the right.

DAVIDSON: If Lopez Obrador were to become like the heads of Brazil and Chile, moderate in office, despite a radical campaign, it would signal that even Mexico's left is business-friendly. That, Hausman says, could dramatically increase investment in Mexico.

Of course, Lopez Obrador could stick to his radical guns, pleasing his supporters and, Housman says, scaring away much foreign investment.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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