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In a pivotal shift for democracy in this Latin American country, Mexico’s next president will likely be a woman. The 2024 presidential race has seen the emergence of two prominent female candidates vying for the nation’s highest office. Indeed, these women are the only two viable candidates at this time for Mexico’s highest political office. 

Mexico’s next president

Mexican Democracy Evolving

The faceoff between two women for such a high office in a traditionally “macho” environment underscores the evolution of Mexican democracy, which in the past has seen periods of intense turmoil and difficulty. The country has witnessed repeatedly violence and corruption. Yet recent elections reflect real change, such as the turn from strongman politics to more liberal policies. Mexico’s democracy is truly strengthening and growing.

The contenders, Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez, each represent distinct ideological perspectives. Sheinbaum, hailing from the center-left Morena party, emphasizes social reforms and progressive policies. In contrast, Gálvez, affiliated with the center-right PAN party, champions economic stability and pro-industry measures.

But both candidates are united in their support for women’s involvement in Mexico’s government. “This is women’s time. We have to build a different culture, one in which women and men are equal,” Sheinbaum recently declared to a crowd cheering her name. Gálvez has told stories of her confrontations with tough men, including with her hard-drinking father. She has pledged to fight for equal pay for men and women.

Both candidates have already garnered substantial support, and their campaigns are marked by robust coalition building. Current President Lopez Obrador is constitutionally prohibited for running for another term. But in spite of his policies being perceived by some as anti-business, he maintains a popularity rating around 60%. The party he founded, Morena, hopes to hold onto their majority and elect Sheinbaum.

This contest for Mexico’s next president symbolizes a continued rejection of strongman politics, emphasizing democratic values, pluralism, and the rule of law. As the race unfolds, it remains to be seen how these female candidates will navigate the complex political landscape. Nonetheless, both women present a curious wrinkle in the fabric of Mexico’s political and cultural landscape.

Who is Claudia Sheinbaum?

Claudia Sheinbaum, a prominent figure in Mexican politics, has emerged as a leading candidate in the 2024 presidential race. As a member of Mexico’s ruling party, Morena, Sheinbaum brings a wealth of experience to the forefront. She is the undisputed frontrunner in this election. In a head-to-head poll between the two female front-runners, Sheinbaum got 55% support and Galvez 34%.

Sheinbaum’s political career includes serving as the mayor of Mexico City, where her tenure has been marked by a focus on social reforms and progressive policies. Her affiliation with Morena makes her the heir apparent of current President López Obrador, who leads the party. This connection positions her as a formidable contender, benefitting from the party’s existing support base and alliances. 

Her emphasis on social justice and progressive values resonates with a significant portion of Mexican voters, particularly those seeking continued change and reform. AMLO has enacted a number of economic programs to provide relief funds to Mexico’s poorest, which seems to be reducing the poverty rate. Sheinbaum’s success in navigating the complex political landscape will depend on her ability to expand this appeal with Mexico’s lower classes to the middle class while maintaining unity within Morena’s diverse coalition.

Who is Xóchitl Gálvez?

Xóchitl Gálvez has become an unlikely contender to become Mexico’s next president. And her journey to this position is marked by a unique blend of experiences and characteristics.

Gálvez’s backstory is rooted in a diverse range of roles, from an engineer to an indigenous rights activist. Her indigenous heritage, belonging to the Náhuatl people, sets her apart from many other candidates. This unique background brings attention to issues of representation and diversity in Mexican politics.

As a candidate, Gálvez appeals to those seeking a fresh perspective and a focus on environmental and indigenous concerns. Her advocacy for indigenous rights and environmental protection resonates with a growing segment of the population concerned about these issues.

When she was recently selected by the center-right PAN party, she was already riding a wave of popular support, especially among Mexico’s indigenous people and minorities. She has emphasized economic stability and pro-industry measures in her platform, attracting voters who prioritize economic growth and stability.

Gálvez has repeatedly criticized AMLO’s policies as aggrandizing executive power and undermining local cooperative systems of government. She believes Obrador’s administration leans towards authoritarian principles, which she perceives as a departure from the democratic ideals that Mexico embraced in the past two decades. 

Almost as if to confirm her critique, President Obrador has vowed to break a long tradition in Mexican politics and actively use his presidency to campaign against her. To deepen the irony, López Obrador has used tax information available only to government insiders to accuse Gálvez of insider dealing in government contracts. She flatly denies this charge, noting the López Obrador’s own administration has contracted services from her companies.

Mexico’s Next President

As the 2024 presidential race unfolds, Xóchitl Gálvez’s background and unique attributes will likely play a significant role in shaping her appeal to both middle class voters and minorities and ultimately her prospects for success. Her journey reflects the evolving landscape of Mexican politics and the growing recognition of the importance of diversity and representation in leadership.

But the administration she is taking on has a strong contender in Claudia Sheinbaum. If current polls can be trusted to hold until Mexico’s general election is held in June 2024, she stands to receive the torch from President Obrador. Whether she would govern in his style or chart a new course remains to be seen.

What does seem almost certain is that Mexico’s next president will be a woman. This will mark the first time in their long history that a woman has achieved such a prominent position of power. And it is likely the shift will reverberate throughout Mexico’s culture and classes for many years to come.

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