The ruling party called it a baton-passing ceremony. But the opposition criticized it, calling it “transmission of the scepter.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is constitutionally prohibited from running for re-election, tried to demonstrate last month, in a very public way, that presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum has his blessing. So he presented his expected successor with a royal baton, in a ceremony outside a Mexico City restaurant, not far from the National Palace, the seat of the country’s executive branch.
Sheinbaum, the 61-year-old former mayor of Mexico City and a longtime political ally of López Obrador, hit all the right notes in thanking him. When accepting the baton along with the presidential nomination of the leftist Morena party, Sheinbaum said that he would assume “all responsibility for continuing the course set by our people, that of the transformation initiated by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”
When Mexicans go to the polls next June, they will choose between two women for the presidency, a first in the country’s history. Just four days before Morena nominated Sheinbaum, Mexico’s opposition coalition Frente Amplio chose another formidable candidate, former senator Xochitl Gálvez of the conservative PAN party.
It is not the first time that Mexico sees women running for president; Before Sheinbaum and Gálvez, there were six other presidential candidates. But with both main political sides nominating women, this is the first time it is practically a given that starting December 2024, Mexico, a country previously known for machismo, will be governed by a woman.
Still, some critics say the shadow of the outgoing López Obrador looms over the race.
Meet the candidates: Sheinbaum and Gálvez
Gálvez’s rise in Mexican politics has been meteoric; This spring, she said that she was not even the favorite of the PRI, PAN and PRD, the parties that now form the Frente Amplio coalition. It was a public dispute with López Obrador himself – who regularly attacked her as a “wimp”, “puppet” and “employee of the oligarchy” at press conferences – that finally brought her into the spotlight.
In June, Gálvez went viral when he tried to enter the National Palace with a court order that gave him the right to respond to the president, after successfully suing López Obrador. “This is not a show,” he told reporters at the doors of the National Palace. “The law is the law and that’s it.”
The daughter of an indigenous father and a mestizo mother, Gálvez served as the top official for indigenous affairs during the government of former President Vicente Fox before becoming a senator. Unfiltered and irreverent, she described herself in an interview with CNN en Español as “an all-terrain woman, 4 for 4.”
In some ways, it seems progressive. Gálvez has advocated in the Mexican Congress for the rights and well-being of indigenous and Afro-Mexican groups, and at a regional forum earlier this year in Monterrey, he said that oil-rich Mexico should shift to renewable energy. “We haven’t done it because we are idiots,” Gálvez said without apology.
She has also said that leftist López Obrador’s pension for all senior citizens should continue and proposes what she calls a “universal social protection system” of welfare programs for a large portion of the middle and lower classes.
But when it comes to security and the fight against organized crime, Gálvez’s triple plan is forceful, based on what she describes as “intelligence, heart and a firm hand”: strengthening local and state police and giving them access to intelligence, defend and protect victims and respect the rule of law.
Macario Schettino, political analyst and professor of Social Sciences at ITESM, a renowned Mexican university, describes Gálvez’s political drive as impressive, considering that just a few months ago she was not even considered a candidate with a national profile. “She just started to register in political terms and has already had great growth. Many people in Mexico still don’t know her. She is going to grow (..) in popularity,” said Schettino, “while Claudia Sheinbaum can no longer move from where she is because she is already known by the majority of Mexicans.”
Sheinbaum, a physicist with a doctorate in environmental engineering, would also be the first president of Jewish heritage if she wins, although she rarely speaks publicly about her personal background and has governed as a secular leftist.
He is currently ahead in most polls and will be a formidable opponent to beat. Sheinbaum not only has the full support of the ruling party, but has also long enjoyed the public spotlight as mayor of Mexico’s most important city for the past five years until her resignation in June to run for president.
On policy, Sheinbaum has promised to continue many of López Obrador’s policies and programs, including a pension for all senior citizens, scholarships for more than 12 million students and free fertilizers for small farm owners. But the prominent former mayor rejects criticism about her close political alignment with the president. “Of course we are not a copy (of the president),” she said in July.
Still, he doesn’t shy away from promoting the principles they share: “For the good of all, let’s put the poor first. There cannot be a rich government if the people are poor. Power is only a virtue when it is used to serve the people,” Sheinbaum said, repeating the same campaign slogans that López Obrador has used for years.
Schettino believes that the immensely popular López Obrador sees Sheinbaum as his extension in power. He notes the roots of his Morena party in the authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for more than seven decades until 2000, which became known as “El Dinosaurio,” and the Party of the Democratic Revolution that was derived from he.
In 2012, López Obrador created Morena as a political party. Schettino today describes the party as a “tyrannosaurus” under the influence of López Obrador, representing what he says is the current leader’s desire to have a successor who adheres closely to his own agenda. “President López Obrador, a dinosaur who is not only a dinosaur, but also has the calling of a tyrant. He doesn’t want to go. He wants to stay in power,” Schettino said.
“I think he built Claudia’s candidacy,” Schettino said.
However, López Obrador has repeatedly rejected accusations of authoritarian tendencies or that he favors a candidate he can control. Earlier this year, López Obrador denied having favorites among his party’s candidates or that he was pushing for one candidate or another behind the scenes.
He has also said he will “completely retire” once his six-year term ends. “I am retiring, I will not participate in any public event again, of course. I am not going to accept any position, I do not want to be anyone’s advisor, much less am I going to act as a boss. I’m not going to have relationships with politicians. “I’m not going to talk about politics,” the president said. told the press in February.