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Mexican hopeful will hold public vote

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Mexico presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), gives a speech as he presents his manifesto in Mexico City, Mexico, November 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

TEXCOCO, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexican presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Sunday that if he wins the July 1 election, he will aim to hold a public vote before taking office on whether to finish building a $13 billion airport outside Mexico City.

The airport, spearheaded by President Enrique Pena Nieto and set to be half-completed by year’s end, has come under fire by Lopez Obrador for being too expensive and allegedly generating corruption.

Lopez Obrador, who leads by wide margins in all major opinion polls, has proposed “public consultations” for various issues including changes to a sweeping energy reform and even his performance as president, but has given few details of how they would work.

He said that if elected, he would seek a meeting with Pena Nieto on July 3 to discuss the airport, but did not say how he would hold a public consultation as president-elect.

It would appear he would require the outgoing president’s approval for such an initiative.

Lopez Obrador said the vote on the Norman Foster-designed airport, Mexico’s biggest infrastructure project, would be conducted by the National Electoral Institute (INE), which runs elections, or a citizen committee.

Lopez Obrador initially vowed to scrap construction of the airport and instead add runways at a smaller facility to handle Mexico’s increasing air travel demands, setting business leaders’ nerves on edge.

The airport authority said a cancellation would cost some $6.6 billion, and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, whose companies are co-designing, co-building and co-financing the project, also spoke out in its defense.

Lopez Obrador said later he would review the billions of dollars in airport construction contracts and possibly offer a private-sector concession.

All of those options would be up for a public debate, he said on Sunday.

“We’re constructing a true democracy, not a dictatorship, and it will be like this in all cases,” he said. “We’re going to listen to the people, and the people will be in charge, always.”

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