Upcoming Presidential Elections in Mexico; a Primer

2024 has been called one of the busiest and record-setting election years ever. This year alone, over 2 billion people in more than 50 countries from all regions of the world will participate in presidential, legislative, regional and/or local elections. As I sit to write this post, during this month of January, Bangladesh, Taiwan and the Comoros Islands have already conducted presidential elections. Finland and Tuvalu are coming up next. If you want to get to know any country in the world, elections can be a great window into what are the major international and domestic trends affecting the jurisdiction. In an election cycle, anything, from the explicitly said to what or who is not included, can give you a significant amount of information on the state of the country, the major players and what’s simmering underneath.

In our region, it’s almost impossible to ignore the current presidential race for the next President of the United States and the impact it will have on the country itself and the rest of the world. However, North America will also witness another important presidential election this year. If the polls are confirmed, Mexico looks like it’s set to elect its first female president this coming June in the midst of major challenges affecting the region such as migration, climate change, economic crises, among others. For those of us in the legal community, be it in Canada or the United States, we should be aware of what’s happening in Mexico as the other major partner in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and how much it might affect our realities. In this post, I’d like to provide a quick overview of the candidates, what are the other trends affecting this electoral process and how you can keep abreast of what’s happening in Mexico and learn more from trustworthy and reliable sources.

Photo by Julio Lopez on Unsplash

Who Are the Candidates?

Officially, the presidential election taking place on 2 June will have three candidates. They are Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Xochilt Gálvez Ruiz and Jorge Alvarez Máynez. Sheinbaum, 61, is running as the candidate for the current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)’s political party, National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional, MORENA in Spanish). She came to the candidature after having served close to five years as the Head of Government of Mexico City, a similar path to AMLO’s political career. A physicist by trade, Sheinbaum joined AMLO’s new political party, MORENA, since its inception and she has embraced its stance on left-wing and populist politics. Despite AMLO’s attacks on the National Institute on Elections (Instituto Nacional de Elecciones, INE in Spanish), judicial independence, opposing politicians and civil society groups, AMLO’s ongoing high level of support among Mexican voters continues to reverberate on Sheinbaum’s candidacy.

The second candidate in the country’s upcoming presidential elections is Xochilt Gálvez. Gálvez, 60, is running as the presidential candidate for a coalition of multiple political parties called Strength and Heart for Mexico (Fuerza y Corazón por México, FCM in Spanish). This coalition is composed of several political parties which have traditionally dominated national politics in the country such as National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN in Spanish), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI in Spanish) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD in Spanish). Businesswoman by trade, she served as a Senator in Mexico’s Congress caucusing mostly with the PAN. Despite her political association with center-right and right-wing political parties, Gálvez has also advocated and supported more “progressive” causes, especially on social issues.

The most recent candidate to enter the presidential race is Jorge Alvarez. Alvarez, 38, is running as the official candidate for the Citizens’ Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano, MV in Spanish). A fan of Chile’s President, Gabriel Boric, Alvarez comes to the presidential race after having been a member of the country’s Chamber of Deputies since 2015. During his political career and especially recently, Alvarez has been at the forefront of his party’s left-wing and progressive policies and causes. Despite an initial closeness with AMLO, the Citizens’ Movement has remained independent and it has refused to enter in any alliance with MORENA citing AMLO’s inability to effectively reduce poverty among Mexicans.

Things to Keep in Mind

Given the popularity of both Sheinbaum and Gálvez in presidential polls, analysts predict that Mexico will almost surely see a female president this coming June, a first in the country and a first also in the USMCA region. This is a major accomplishment in a country that granted women the right to vote only in 1953, one of the latest countries in the Americas. Furthermore, representation of women at the highest level of government has not gone unnoticed in a historically conservative country where the Catholic Church still exerts a significant influence on social and cultural mores and gender roles. However, recent developments such as the decriminalization of abortion, legalization of same-sex marriage and higher than ever number of women in Congress and at the head of several Mexican states are all perceived as major indicators on how much Mexican society has changed and how acceptance of diverse gender roles can play a role in the next coming presidential election.

The gains on women’s rights does not hide the fact that the country is also experiencing a wave of violence and criminality which disproportionately affects women of color, indigenous women and transgender women. A significant amount of violence in Mexico is linked to drug cartels, arms trafficking, corruption and the government’s inability to curb the impunity in which these criminal networks operate. Unfortunately, kidnappings, disappearances and other criminal activity has surpassed previous records, despite AMLO’s plans to expand the use of the military in addressing these issues, a move which recalls similar initiatives in Bukele’s El Salvador. The Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sonora, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Michoacán are frequently mentioned as the most violent states in the country.

A significant amount of this violence is fueled by issues with migration and human trafficking. After years of being a country of emigration, Mexico has now become a country of immigration and transit. This new phenomenon has taken the country by surprise and it has overwhelmed government agencies which had never seen such numbers of migrants and simply do not have the resources to face these challenges. The inability of the government to face this problem directly and provide the resources it needs, and pressure from the United States have led to short term “solutions” such as the deployment of the military to its Southern border with Guatemala which lack any sustainability and do not look at the core problems nationally and regionally. Furthermore, these dramatic and rapid changes and the way it has been treated by certain media outlets and politicians in Mexico have also raised the levels of xenophobia and anti-migrants against Central Americans, Haitians and Indigenous Peoples in the country.

How to Know More?

Inevitably, there are multiple other salient issues which I’m leaving out of this post. Therefore, as a Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian, I must end this post with several sources which I believe can help you learn more and keep abreast of how Mexico’s presidential election unfolds and which I used myself to write this post.

My first go-to would be the Americas Quarterly, which is the official magazine of the Americas Society/Council of America (AS/COA). On their top menu, they have a section for upcoming elections in the region and Mexico is obviously one of them. Their format is usually direct, east-to-read with summaries, short explanations and infographics.In case you need more information, there is always a way to connect their content with the AS/COA directly for this election cycle and also all others taking place in the region.

Similarly, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Foreign Policy (FP) both provide in-depth and expert analysis on the country and how it connects to other trends and challenges regional and internationally. If you’re interested in following updates on what’s happening locally and how it connects to larger issues, I highly recommend both of them. CFR also has an educational purpose, which makes it easier for all audiences to understand and follow, and that includes webinars and online events.

Other sources of interest include The Wilson Center and Global Americans. Among its many programs, the Wilson Center has a Mexico Institute which provides relevant information and analysis on the country, major actors, what’s the reality on the ground and it connects to other trends. The Global Americans is a relatively newer think tank. However, given the quality of their reports, analysis and programming, it has quickly become a relevant source for anything Latin America.

If there are any others you would recommend, please email me directly or just add them in the comments.

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