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Mexico Elects First Woman President

In an election marred by violence, Mexico has chosen its first ever female leader.

Claudia Sheinbaum, Fred Ramos/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Claudia Sheinbaum was declared the president of Mexico following the June 2 elections. The results of the elections are historic, as the sixty-year-old becomes Mexico’s first woman president in the country’s 200-year history. 

“For the first time in history, a woman won the presidential elections,” Adriana Baez Carlos, a political science professor at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM), tells The Progressive.

Sheinbaum, a climate scientist who formerly served as the mayor of Mexico City, won in a landslide with nearly 60 percent of the vote. She is a close ally of Mexico’s outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO.

Sheinbaum is also Jewish, making her the county’s first ever Jewish president. During the campaign, she spoke of being “a person of faith” while not being religiously affiliated. Her grandparents emigrated to Mexico from Bulgaria and Lithuania in the years before the Holocaust, but her parents, she says, “were atheists.” Her parents were also active on the left, participating in labor struggles, rallies in support of Cuba, and the violently repressed 1968 student protests in Mexico City.

She campaigned promising to continue the policies implemented during AMLO’s presidency. “We have made possible the continuity and progress of the fourth transformation,” Sheinbaum posted on X (formerly known as Twitter). The candidate promised she would not let her supporters down.

Sheinbaum ran with the Sigamos Haciendo Historia coalition, which brought together AMLO’s Movimiento Regeneración Nacional party, or Morena, in coalition with the Partido Verde (Green Party) and the Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party). AMLO’s victory in 2018 broke the decades-long hold on power of the traditional political class in Mexico. 

Her closest rival, Xóchitl Gálvez, who ran with a coalition between Mexico’s traditional ruling political parties—the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), and the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD)—won 27.9 percent of the vote. The remaining candidate, Jorge Álvarez Máynez of the Movimiento Ciudadano party, won 10.4 percent.

The elections were marred by violence, with thirty-seven candidates killed ahead of the June 2 elections. It was the largest number of candidates killed in an election since the presidential elections of 2018. 

Morena and their coalition also won a majority in the congress. This could open the door to pursuing the constitutional reforms that had been on AMLO’s agenda. 

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“The results not only show a strong legitimacy, but [also show] great support in congress,” Baez Carlos, who assisted in counting the votes, says. “The extraordinary results are very favorable for the new president.”  

Both opposition candidates have conceded defeat and congratulated Sheinbaum on her victory, something that has become less common in the Western Hemisphere. 

“The position that both opposition candidates took is the democratic path,” Baez Carlos says. “It is what we all should strive for.” 

Mexico’s far right failed to get into the race. Their candidate, Eduardo Verástegui, a Mexican-American singer and telenovela actor who had served as an adviser to Donald Trump, did not gain enough signatures to get on the ballot. 

A devout Catholic, Verástegui has become an internationally known anti-abortion activist, and brought the first Conservative Political Action Committee to Latin America. He had promised to make Mexico a “pro-life” and “pro-family” country, and to roll back abortion rights. 

“[Verástegui] appealed to religiosity, but those circles already had a home within the PAN party,” Luis Herrán Ávila, an assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who researches far-right movements in Mexico and Latin America, tells The Progressive. “He just played his cards wrong and his platform was just too extreme.” 

He added: “Trying to replicate a sort of Trumpism in Mexico just didn't have a lot of resonance [with voters]. It . . . showed the limits of that heart of conservatism—the hard right in Mexico does not have an electoral base.”

To demonstrate Herrán Ávila’s point, in a rejection of conservative and anti-abortion efforts, Mexico nationally decriminalized abortions in 2023.

In February 2024, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE), the electoral governing body, opened an investigation into Verástegui for illegally receiving campaign funding from a company based in the United States during his failed attempt to run for office. 

Verástegui had sought to find favor in Mexico’s deeply religious sectors. But as Herrán Ávila points out, religion has taken a backseat in Mexican electoral politics.

“There is a very strong legacy of Mexican secularism,” Herrán Ávila says. “There is a certain separation—even if sometimes unspoken—where people are deeply Catholic but also are able to separate their political beliefs from their religion.” 

Sheinbaum will inherit a country that continues to be plagued by historic levels of violence, the growing influence of drug trafficking networks, a healthcare crisis, and a worsening climate crisis. 

“Sheinbaum does not receive a very stable country,” Baez Carlos says. “Rather it has great challenges, and above all, I think the greatest challenge is insecurity.”

Sheinbaum will also inherit the historic level of migration from or through Mexico to the United States. She has stated that she is willing to work with whomever wins the presidential race in the United States to address the migration crisis. 

During the campaign, Sheinbaum promised to bring industry to Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas to resolve the unemployment crisis in the region and address the root causes of migration. She promised that half of the new jobs created would be available to residents of the southern state, with the other half being made available to migrants from Central America. 

Sheinbaum will take office on October 1.