Will Mexico have its first woman president?

Screenshot of the debate at the National Electoral Institute (INE) from the video “Primer Debate Presidencial – México 2024″ on the INETV YouTube channel. Fair use.

On June 2, 2024, presidential elections will be held in Mexico, and, for the first time in Mexico’s history, there are tangible conditions to have its first female president. Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo and Berta Xochitl Galvez Ruiz are vying for the top spot in the polls, leaving third candidate Jorge Álvarez Maynez at a comfortable distance. For example, the survey conducted by the Mitofsky poll for the magazine El Economista places Sheinbaum at 56 percent, Galvez at 32.2 percent, and Maynez at 11.8 percent.

The elections are taking place in a tense scenario in which the executive and legislative powers are clashing with the judiciary, as the bills being passed in Congress are being blocked in the Supreme Court. Violence against local politicians at the hand of organized crime is also on the rise.

Claudia Sheinbaum, banking on political continuity

Photo of Claudia Sheinbaum by Rodrigo Jardón via Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED.

The current leading candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum is a scientist and researcher who graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She was the secretary of Environment of Mexico City (CDMX) in 2000, working for Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)’s government when he was as city mayor and now he is president of Mexico. In 2016, she became the mayor of Tlalpan, a neighborhood in CDMX. In 2018, she became the first female woman mayor of the capital, following the same ideology as AMLO and championing social-democratic leftism.

Claudia Sheinbaum became the candidate for the coalition of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), the Work Party (PT), and the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM) in September 2023, after a controversial internal elections where she defeated former secretary of International Relations Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon and former secretary of Government Adan Augusto Lopez Hernandez.

As mayor of Mexico City, she led one of the most ambitious reforestation programs by planting 30 million trees. She also approved the construction of two cable car lines to connect the highest parts of the city, known as Cable Bus. She also led the expansion of metro-bus lines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO rewarded the city for its resilient response to COVID-19 and the 2017 earthquakes.

The Mexican opposition attributes to Claudia the following scandals: the bribe her ex-husband Carlos Imaz received in 2006 from businessman Carlos Ahumada. There is also the collapse of Rebsamen primary school during the September 2017 earthquake, which resulted in the deaths of 26 people, mostly children, during Sheinbaum's government as mayor of Tlalpan. In 2022, one of the metro bridges collapsed in the event known as “Line 12,” where 26 people died.

Xóchitl Gálvez, contending from the second spot

Photo of Xóchitl Gálvez by EneasMx via WikipediaCC BY-SA 4.0 DEED.

The expressive Xóchitl Gálvez is a senator from the right-wing opposition party, the National Action Party (PAN). She had humble beginnings, being from an Indigenous family in the state of Hidalgo and graduating as a computer engineer from the UNAM. Gálvez entered politics in 2000, where she served as head of the Office for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) in Vicente Fox's presidential administration. In 2015, she became the head of the Miguel Hidalgo mayoralty in CDMX. In 2018, she became a senator for PAN. She is also a businesswoman specializing in the construction of smart buildings and computer systems maintenance.

As a senator, she became a vocal critic of AMLO's government. Among her memorable moments are chaining herself to the podium in the senate, attending an election dressed as a dinosaur, and requesting the “right of reply” at AMLO's press conference. The latter catapulted her to being the candidate for the opposition bloc Frente Amplio por México, an alliance composed of PAN, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). Gálvez was elected after an odd process where all her opponents withdrew.

So far, only the polling firm Massive Caller has placed her ahead of Sheinbaum, although the methodology shows a 95 percent abstention rate from responding to the survey.

Gálvez has also been linked to acts of corruption. In 2023, Gálvez's successor in the Miguel Hidalgo mayor's office, Víctor Romo, denounced alleged contracts between Gálvez's companies and the government. Similarly, an investigation by the newspaper Sin Embargo revealed that Gálvez's house, valued at USD 482,928, was built under an opaque construction scheme. This case is known as “La Casa Roja” (The Red House).

Álvarez Máynez, building a third path

Photo of Jorge Álvarez Máynez by EneasMx via Wikipedia. CC BY 4.0.

Federal deputy Jorge Álvarez Máynez was not the favored choice of the liberal-progressive (center-left) party, Citizen Movement (MC). In fact, it was the governor of Nuevo León, Samuel García, who was the chosen candidate and had already begun his pre-campaign. However, facing the possibility of being forced to resign by the state congress, he abandoned the race. Thus, the young Zacatecan Máynez stepped in as his replacement.

Máynez has carved out a niche with the youth vote, advocating for environmental measures, green energy, and social issues such as reducing the workday or improving housing accessibility.

Álvarez Máynez has sought to position himself using social media and using the first two presidential debates to present his campaign proposals. So far, the most highlighted discussion with any candidate had occurred during the second debate, when he questioned Gálvez about whether she would support the initiative to reduce the work week to 40 hours.

In 2022, he was criticized on social media for his visit to Kiev, which was labeled “war tourism,” and in April 2023, a party supporter accused him of sexual harassment.

Despite representing a fraction of the opposition in Mexico, the party's line does not want to join the Frente Amplio's bloc. Movimiento Ciudadano seeks to increase its number of representatives in the federal congress and present itself to the public as a third alternative to the political binary.

On June 2, in addition to electing a president, voters will choose 500 federal deputies and 128 senators. Additionally, the states of Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Puebla, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Yucatán will elect governors and state congresses.

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