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Mexico ready to make history

Photo: Adil Boukind Le Devoir Border on the Mexico side, near Eagle Pass.

Lisa-Marie Gervais

Published at 0:00

  • Americas

In a fight between two candidates for the presidency, Mexico is preparing to make history by electing a first woman as head of the country. Claudia Sheinbaum, of the coalition comprising MORENA, the outgoing president's party, the Labor Party and the Greens, is leading so far in the polls against center-right candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, of Fuerza y ​​corazón para México, an unusual coalition formed by PAN, PRI and PRD, three parties covering a broad spectrum and which were previously rivals. In this historic election in many respects, there is a lot at stake, believes Jean-François Prud'homme, political scientist and professor at the Colegio de México, who has lived in this country for almost 30 years.

How are the elections historic ?

First, we talk a lot about the fact that there is a presidential election, but what we don't often talk about, even here in the capital, is the fact that there are elections at several levels [ which take on an unprecedented character. We will also elect 128 senators, 500 deputies, 9 governors out of 32 states — including a head of government in Mexico City —, 31 local congresses , 1580 municipal councils, etc. In all, there are nearly 20,000 vacancies and some 97 million Mexicans will go to the polls. It's huge!

Then, of the three candidates in the presidential election, the two favorites are indeed women, who really have the possibility of winning, and in this, it is a first. At the same time, this is not what is part of the great political debate surrounding the presidential election. We hardly talk about it, in fact. […] And what is curious, if we look at the programs of the two aspirants to power, is that there are certainly proposals linked to the condition of women, to violence against women and to feminicides, which are very serious problems in the country, but, despite everything, it is not something that dominates the debate.

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And why is that ?

For two reasons. First, because this is not the first time that there have been women candidates for the presidency. In the 1980s, Rosario Ibarra de Piedra was the first woman to run for president, for the Revolutionary Workers' Party. In 1994, there was Marcela Lombardo, under the banner of the Socialist Popular Party, Cecilia Soto, for the Labor Party, and more recently, in 2006, Patricia Mercado also tried her luck at the presidency representing a social- Democrat. Candidate in the 2012 election for the National Action Party (PAN), Josefina Vázquez Mota still obtained 25% of the votes.

The other reason why we don't talk that much about the fact that these are two women candidates is undoubtedly linked to parity laws. In 1996, political parties could field no more than 70% of candidates of the same gender. This was subsequently reduced until in 2014 a constitutional reform established gender equality, for senators and deputies, then for local congresses. This 50-50 parity then extended to municipal councils and, more recently, it also applies to the executive power, i.e. to the positions of governor in the states.

What were the important themes of the current campaign which is ending ?

The role of the State, insecurity and violence, energy production. There was an impressive heat wave and there were a lot of power outages across the country, for which the policies of the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, were blamed.

As for the theme of immigration, it is curious, but it was raised very little during the campaign. Mexico will increasingly have to see itself not only as a country that expels immigrants to the United States, but also as a country that receives them. As a society, Mexicans do not yet see themselves as a welcoming country. I have the impression that this will come up more in the debate as the elections approach in the United States. [Same thing] for the theme of bilateral relations with the United States, especially since there are concurrent elections. We thought it would take up more space during the campaign, but that is not the case.

What will be the main challenges of the new president of Mexico ?

Claudia Sheinbaum promises to consolidate the Cuarta transformation[the Fourth Transformation, a vast reform project led by the current president in particular for a better distribution of wealth]. It's about consolidating social programs, and it's such an important subject that opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez also says she will respect them and seek to expand them. But the main challenge will certainly be finding the funds and resources to maintain them.

The challenge for Claudia Sheinbaum, if elected, will also be to complete the major projects infrastructure of the current government, the new airport in the city of Mexico, which is very little used, the construction of the refinery in the state of Tabasco and the famous Mayan train in the Yucatán peninsula, as well as the consolidation of the the transisthmic axis, a land railway bridge [of 310 kilometers] which would connect the ports of the Pacific with those of the Gulf of Mexico to compete with the Panama Canal.

It will also be necessary to ensure macroeconomic stability. […] We think we can take full advantage of the context of near shoring, or the fact that many [American] companies that produced in China are considering setting up in different locations in Mexico due to the context of rivalry between the two countries.

And, of course, violence is everywhere and it is real. What strategies will be developed against drug traffickers and large cartels and the role of military participation ? In certain regions of the country, the State model for maintaining social order is in competition with that of these criminal groups.

Claudia Sheinbaum, runner-up to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is the favorite in the polls. What legacy does her predecessor leave her and will she be able to free herself from it ?

On February 5, Constitution Day, President López Obrador left a sort of political testament, 20 constitutional reforms in the wake of his Cuarta Transformación, which should be carried out by the end of his mandate but which, obviously, will not be able to be done. In particular, he proposes the election of judges of the Supreme Court by universal suffrage as well as a reform of Congress to eliminate the election of deputies by proportional representation, which had previously allowed minorities to be better represented. […] It is a model of democracy which, let us say, moves away from the classic model of liberal democracy.

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This text is published via our section Perspectives.

Through this will, the outgoing president defines the legislative program for the coming years and obliges Claudia Sheinbaum to take these reforms into account. Will she be able to free herself from it ? I don't have an answer and it's a very delicate subject.

Remains that Andrés Manuel López Obrador has a lot of power within MORENA, a young party [founded in 2011] that revolves a lot around his personality, and it will be interesting to see what he does with his charisma. He is still very popular and I am certain that he will continue to have great mobilizing power and that his opinions will continue to carry enormous weight.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116