Mexico's Ebrard sticks with ruling party, avoids break with president

Mexico's former Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard holds a press conference in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Former foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday he would stay in Mexico's ruling party, ending weeks of speculation he could seek the presidency in 2024 with the opposition and break with his longtime boss, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

In September, Ebrard finished runner-up in the presidential primaries of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) to former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, and rejected the result, saying the process was marred by irregularities.

Afterwards, he had held out the possibility of seeking the presidency with the center-left opposition Citizens' Movement (MC) party. However, this weekend MC closed its register of contenders for its presidential candidacy without Ebrard.

Announcing that a MORENA review into his complaints had found there were "improper practices" involved in the primary process that would be sanctioned, Ebrard said he was committed to the party and had reached an "understanding" with Sheinbaum.

"I won't change my convictions, nor will I change party," he told reporters at a press conference, saying he would continue to pursue the presidency in future.

Ebrard, 64, a veteran aide to Lopez Obrador, built his reputation as a socially progressive mayor of Mexico City between 2006 and 2012, when he decriminalized abortion and legalized same-sex marriage in the capital.

He was also a key interlocutor for Mexico's negotiations over trade and immigration with then-U.S. President Donald Trump, and the succeeding Biden administration.

Widely viewed as an economic moderate, Ebrard is eager to encourage more private investment in Mexico at a time companies are looking to reduce supply chain exposure to Asia.

Lopez Obrador, a resource nationalist, has put off some investors with a concerted drive to tighten state control of key areas of the economy such as energy generation, and has verbally pilloried his critics as conservative reactionaries.

That has helped polarize public opinion, and Ebrard urged MORENA to broaden its base and cultivate middle class support.

"Mexico has one of the biggest opportunities in its history, but also significant risks," he said. "And the basis of the country's governance must rest on reducing antagonism."

(Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Jonathan Oatis)