Mexico – Nation Set for the First Female President in 2024 Election
Date: September 15, 2023
Mexico Set for the Nation’s First Female President in 2024 Election
Former Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and senator Xóchitl Gálvez were selected as the candidates for the two major electoral groups.
Thomas Graham in Mexico City
September 6 2023 – Mexico will almost certainly have its first female president in 2024, after the governing Morena party and the opposition coalition both chose women as their candidates.
Former Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum was named Morena’s candidate on Wednesday, despite runner-up Marcelo Ebrard’s last-minute denouncement of the process and demand for it to be redone.
Sheinbaum is a climate scientist-turned-politician who was widely believed to be the preferred choice of president Andrés Manuel López Obrador who is unable to run again.
She has presented herself as a continuity candidate and stands to benefit from López Obrador’s enduring popularity as well as the support of the state apparatus during the coming campaign.
Until recently, Morena had seemed assured of victory in the June 2024 elections, but the dramatic emergence in recent months of senator Xóchitl Gálvez as the opposition candidate has upended expectations.
Gálvez is a businesswoman who became a senator in 2018 and has seized media attention with her aspirational story of growing up with an Indigenous father and mestizo mother in Hidalgo state, before working her way through public university and into business and politics.
In a matter of months Gálvez has risen to become the candidate of a broad opposition coalition that includes the PAN, PRI and PRD, the country’s three oldest mainstream parties.
Both Sheinbaum and Gálvez were chosen through a series of polls intended to show greater transparency and public participation than in the past, when presidents had the habit of handpicking their successors. However, neither process went smoothly.
The opposition coalition never conducted the final consultation of the process it set out, because another candidate, Beatriz Paredes, withdrew, thus handing the candidacy to the frontrunner Gálvez.
Meanwhile Ebrard, Morena’s runner-up, has accused the party of favouritism towards Sheinbaum. On Wednesday he declared his team had found anomalies in 14% of the ballots cast in the national poll Morena conducted to decide the candidacy.
Ebrard’s demands to redo the process have gone unheeded and he has since ruled himself out of contention for Morena.
On Thursday, López Obrador dismissed Ebrard’s complaints, and expressed his full support for Sheinbaum.
“I celebrate what was done yesterday. It’s something historic, unprecedented, and I don’t see any problem,” said the president, describing Sheinbaum as “an honest woman with convictions and principles.”
With the two candidacies confirmed, it now seems all but certain that Mexico’s next president will be a woman for the first time in its history, withSheinbaum remaining the favourite to win, despite Gálvez’s popularity.
“She will have López Obrador’s support, but building her own narrative, forging her own image – that’s her first challenge,” said Carlos Ramírez, a political analyst. “She needs him, and he is popular. Why break with that? But she has to find a middle way.”
Ebrard’s very public dissent is also an early sign of the trouble Sheinbaum may face to maintain cohesion within the Morena party once López Obrador leaves power.
“In less than 12 months [López Obrador] will go to his ranch in Palenque, and he is in principle what is holding them all together,” said Vanessa Romero Rocha, a political analyst.
Meanwhile it remains to be seen whether Gálvez can convert her media buzz into electoral support across the nation. “The latest data we have say that 48% of the population still don’t know who she is,” said Romero Rocha.
As the candidate of Mexico’s traditional parties, Gálvez is vulnerable to the charge that she is backed by a despised corporate aristocracy. But despite having been in politics for years – as mayor of a municipality in Mexico City before becoming a senator – she has not been tainted by corruption scandals.
“Gálvez needs to sell herself as an outsider, a figure of civil society, but without losing the support of the party structures – she needs them to win,” said Ramírez. “That’s going to be a very delicate balance.”
Despite representing the conservative PAN party as senator, Gálvez has backed progressive policies on issues such as the environment, abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.
Such a stance on social justice could eat into Morena’s support – but it could also alienate the more conservative voters the PAN counts on.
Despite this, the opposition see Gálvez as their best hope to take on Morena, having lost election after election since López Obrador’s landslide win in 2018.
“These political parties understand what the Mexican people want,” said Romero Rocha. “Lately, López Obrador has had 60% approval ratings at the national level: only a fool would swim in the opposite direction.”