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Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
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Mexico prepares for historic presidential election on June 2

Mexico this year will almost certainly elect its first female president. It will also be the country's biggest election in terms of the number of government positions up for grabs.

MEXICO CITY (CN) — Mexico's presidential election on Sunday, June 2, will be the first in Mexican history to feature two female front-runners.

Across the country, nearly 100 million Mexicans will also decide 20,263 federal and local posts — the largest amount in the nation's history. The record number of open positions is the result of a cost-saving strategy which saw many local positions move their election day to the same day as national elections.

Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, of the ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, is running against Xochitl Gálvez, the opposition candidate. Gálvez is supported by a coalition of three long-established center-right and right-wing political parties, including the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action Party (PAN) and Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).

The third candidate, Jorge Álvarez Máynez, is running under the Citizens Movement party, established by former PRD members in 1999. The party describes itself as socially democratic but to the right of Morena.

According to the latest poll numbers released May 14 by consulting firm Mitofksy for El Economista, Sheinbaum holds almost 49% of the support from voters. Gálvez is second with 28%, followed by Alvarez Maynez with 10%.

From the Mexican Revolution until 2000, Mexico saw one-party rule under the PRI party. That year was the first time an opposition party won the presidency, as PAN party candidate Vicente Fox beat out his rivals. 

In 2000, nearly 64% of the population voted. That number has decreased in recent elections. Voter turnout in the last presidential election, in 2018, was only 42%, though it's expected to be significantly higher this year.

"This year’s number of eligible voters is the highest ever, including many outside of Mexico," said Emily Edmonds-Poli, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of San Diego.

"Although Claudia is still the clear favorite, there’s still a chance that Xochitl — and especially Máynez — will inspire a protest vote against Morena/the status quo," Edmonds-Poli added. "So, I think turnout will be within normal range."

Mexican presidents are allowed only one six-year term. For that reason, some view Sheinbaum's bid as a referendum on the legacy of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who holds a 66% approval rating according to the latest poll by consulting firm Oraculus.

"People don't vote on the economy, on how to handle corruption or even ideology. People vote because of what's called affective polarization," said Rodrigo Castro Cornejo, assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and associate director of the UMass-Lowell Center for Public Opinion.

"It's why AMLO became president by such a high margin in 2018," he said. "It's about an aversion to PRI and PAN, which is why Sheinbaum is so popular: because she is a continuation of his policies."

That would also mean a continuation of Mexico's current foreign policy towards the United States, Castro Cornejo added. "As long as the U.S. doesn't criticize human rights abuses in Mexico, Mexico will do whatever the U.S. wants in terms of immigration."

Both front-runners share similarities, including degrees from the prestigious National Autonomous University of Mexico. Sheinbaum has a master's in energy engineering and a doctorate in environmental engineering, while Gálvez has a bachelor's in computer engineering.

In other ways, their images are quite different. Gálvez, a tech entrepreneur, has framed herself as coming from humble Indigenous beginnings, in contrast to Sheinbaum, the academic scientist.

“I am a woman who comes from below, who knows poverty and knows how poverty hurts and the time that it steals from you," Gálvez said during the most recent presidential debate on April 29.

In a moment of political theater at the same debate, Gálvez brought a bottle of water she said was from Mexico City. She dared Sheinbaum to drink it, alluding to recent reports of contaminated water in the city where Sheinbaum recently ended her mayoral term and attempting to undermine Sheinbaum's scientific credentials.

Sheinbaum did not drink the water.

In 2000, Sheinbaum served as secretary of the environment for Mexico City under then-Mexico City Mayor López Obrador.

She joined López Obrador's presidential campaign team in 2006. After his unsuccessful candidacy in that election, she pivoted back to academia, serving as a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

In 2014, she joined López Obrador's newly created Morena party, which describes itself as a leftist anti-neoliberal party. She became mayor of the large southern Tlalpan borough of Mexico City between 2015 and 2017, then mayor of Mexico City in 2018 after she won nearly 50% of the vote.

López Obrador eventually won the presidency on his third run in 2018, promising a "fourth transformation" in Mexico to end corruption and income disparity and promote Mexico's self-sufficiency and sovereignty.

Gálvez, born in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, started her political career under President Vicente Fox, serving as head of the Office for the Development of Indigenous Peoples between 2000 and 2006. 

In 2010, she unsuccessfully ran as governor of Hidalgo.

From 2015 to 2018, Gálvez was mayor of the Miguel Hidalgo borough of Mexico City — one of the city's wealthiest. She then became a PAN party senator in 2018, a position she held until 2023.

She made her first national public impression on the morning of June 12, 2023, when she arrived at the presidential palace during one of López Obrador's morning press conferences. Riding a bicycle to the palace, she arrived with a judge-sanctioned "right of response" allowing her to formally respond to one of the president's criticisms of her.

Gálvez was not allowed into the building and waited for an hour outside with her bicycle. The scene caused a media frenzy and — to some — made her a worthy adversary to the divisive President López Obrador in the process.

Jorge Álvarez Máynez, the third candidate, was born in Zacatecas and studied international relations at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente.

He holds two master's degrees, one in public policy and administration from Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and another in constitutional law and human rights from Centro de Estudios Jurídicos Carbonell.

At age 38, Jorge Álvarez Máynez is significantly younger than the other two candidates. Sheinbaum and Gálvez are both 61.

His presidential run has been criticized by the Gálvez coalition for potentially aiding Sheinbaum as a spoiler candidate. He has been asked to step down.

Nonetheless, in a simulated university student election on May 8 that included 255,000 students from 400 public and private universities throughout the country, Álvarez Máynez won second place, beating out Gálvez.

"Young people should never be made invisible. They should be congratulated for participating in the poll," he said in an education forum in Mexico City that day. "I congratulate them on their efforts. I think it's a good precedent."

"Wake up young people! The next 30 years of your lives are at stake in this election. On June 2. Let's all go out to defend life, truth and freedom. It's now or never," Gálvez wrote on X, in her response to the poll results. As voting day on June 2 nears, the election will likely only get more tense between the two front-runners.

Categories / Government, International, Politics

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