Newsdeck

Mexico elections

Claudia Sheinbaum claims sweeping mandate to become Mexico’s first female president

Claudia Sheinbaum claims sweeping mandate to become Mexico’s first female president
Mexico's presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum reacts during a press conference after the general elections in Mexico City, Mexico, 03 June 2024. Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, is to be Mexico's first female President after she obtained between 58.3 and 60.7 per cent of the votes during the electoral night, according to the preliminary results announced by the National Electoral Institute. EPA-EFE/Mario Guzman

MEXICO CITY, June 3 (Reuters) - Claudia Sheinbaum, a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist, will become Mexico's first female president after winning a landslide election victory and promising to continue the work of her mentor and outgoing leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Sheinbaum, 61, secured between 58.3% and 60.7% of votes, according to the INE electoral institute’s rapid sample count released late Sunday night, the most support won by a candidate in a Mexican presidential election since the end of one-party rule in 2000.

Accepting her victory, Sheinbaum thanked Lopez Obrador, calling him “an exceptional, unique man who has transformed Mexico for the better.”

Lopez Obrador doubled the minimum wage, reduced poverty and oversaw a strengthening peso and low levels of unemployment – successes that made him incredibly popular and helped Sheinbaum to victory. But analysts believe Sheinbaum will find it difficult to follow in his footsteps.

“We made history!” Sheinbaum told a crowd early Monday morning in the Zocalo square in the heart of Mexico City.

Her victory is a major step for Mexico, a country known for its macho culture and home to the world’s second biggest Roman Catholic population, which for years pushed more traditional values and roles for women.

“It’s a historic moment, especially for women,” said Arlyn Rivera, a 24-year-old student, as she celebrated Sheinbaum’s victory in the Zocalo plaza. “Mexican politics deserves more than what we have had in recent years.”

Main opposition rival, Xochitl Galvez, conceded defeat after mustering just 26.6%-28.6% of votes, according to preliminary results.

Sheinbaum, who will take office on Oct. 1, is the first woman to win a general election in the United States, Mexico or Canada.

Mexico joins Latin American counterparts like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, which have voted women to the highest office.

 

BUDGET DEFICIT

Sheinbaum has promised to expand the welfare policies that have driven Lopez Obrador’s popularity and her triumph, a tricky task while inheriting a hefty budget deficit and low economic growth.

Her agenda will be boosted by ample support in Congress. Rapid count results showed her ruling party Morena and allies on track for a possible supermajority in both houses of Congress.

She has vowed to improve security but has given few details and the election, the most violent in Mexico’s modern history with 38 candidates murdered, has reinforced massive security problems. Many analysts say organized crime groups expanded and deepened their influence during Lopez Obrador’s term.

Sunday’s vote was also marred by the killing of two people at polling stations in Puebla state. More people have been killed – over 185,000 – during the mandate of Lopez Obrador than during any other administration in Mexico’s modern history, although the homicide rate has been inching down.

“Unless she commits to making a game-changing level of investment in improving policing and reducing impunity, Sheinbaum will likely struggle to achieve a significant improvement in overall levels of security,” said Nathaniel Parish Flannery, an independent Latin America political risk analyst.

 

U.S. RELATIONS

Congratulations streamed in through the evening from regional heads of state.

“Mexico elected a progressive as the first woman president in its history. It is a triumph for the Mexican people and for their democracy,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro said on social media.

Among the new president’s challenges will be tense negotiations with the United States over the huge flows of U.S.-bound migrants crossing Mexico and security cooperation over drug trafficking at a time when the U.S. fentanyl epidemic rages.

Mexican officials expect these negotiations to be more difficult if the U.S. presidency is won by Donald Trump in November. Trump has vowed to impose 100% tariffs on Chinese cars made in Mexico and said he would mobilize special forces to fight the cartels.

At home, Sheinbaum will be tasked with addressing electricity and water shortages and luring manufacturers to relocate as part of the nearshoring trend, in which companies move supply chains closer to their main markets.

She will also have to wrestle with what to do with Pemex, the state oil giant that has seen production decline for two decades and is drowning in debt.

“It cannot just be that there is an endless pit where you put public money in and the company is never profitable,” said Alberto Ramos, chief Latin America economist at Goldman Sachs. “They have to rethink the business model of Pemex.”

Lopez Obrador loomed over the campaign, seeking to turn the vote into a referendum on his political agenda. Sheinbaum has rejected opposition claims that she would be a “puppet” of Lopez Obrador, though she has pledged to continue many of his policies including those that have helped Mexico’s poorest.

“There is an expectation that she will continue the policies of Lopez Obrador, but also become her own president at the same time,” said Jason Marczak, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

“I see her administration as being more technocratic than a Lopez Obrador administration, one that is less dependent on the ultimate whims of the president and more about the structure that she has created around her,” he said, highlighting Sheinbaum’s reputation for efficiency when she was Mexico City mayor.

Political analyst Viri Rios said she thought sexism was behind criticism that Sheinbaum was going to be a puppet.

“It’s unbelievable that people cannot believe she’s going to be making her own decisions, and I think that’s got a lot to do with the fact that she’s female,” she said.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry, Valentine Hilaire, Lizbeth Diaz, Sarah Kinosian, Ana Isabel Martinez, Noe Torres, Stefanie Eschenbacher, Diego Ore, Anthony Esposito, Brendan O’Boyle, Laura Gottesdiener; Writing by Cassandra Garrison, Brendan O’Boyle, Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Alex Richardson)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.