Claudia Sheinbaum elected Mexico’s first female president

Claudia Sheinbaum is set to make history as Mexico’s first female president, securing 59.5% of the vote according to rapid counts by Mexico’s electoral authority. Sheinbaum, a former mayor of Mexico City and a climate scientist, ran as a continuity candidate, pledging to uphold the policies of her predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Amlo), the founder of the Morena party. Amlo, barred from re-election, endorsed Sheinbaum, who garnered five million more votes than he did six years ago.

Her victory speech highlighted the historic nature of her win, with supporters chanting “presidenta.” This milestone is partly due to a constitutional amendment promoting gender parity in elected offices and government appointments, leading to increased female representation in Mexico’s congress and cabinet. Activists hope this will drive policy changes, particularly in areas like abortion access and combating gender-based violence, which remains a significant issue.

Sheinbaum’s main opponent, Xóchitl Gálvez, secured 27.6% of the vote but struggled due to the unpopularity of the traditional parties backing her. The election also saw over 20,000 other posts contested, with Morena and its allies potentially achieving a supermajority in congress, allowing for constitutional amendments without opposition. This power could enable sweeping reforms, including controversial proposals like electing supreme court justices by popular vote, a move that could bring the judiciary under Morena’s influence.

Despite Amlo’s assurance of non-interference, he emphasized the need for judicial reform to ensure a judiciary that is “incorruptible.” Morena also expanded its gubernatorial control, holding 24 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities. This concentration of power is unprecedented since Mexico’s democratization in 2000, leading to market jitters and a dip in the peso against the dollar.

Sheinbaum faces significant challenges, particularly in tackling violence, corruption, and the pervasive influence of organized crime. The military’s expanded role under Amlo into civil areas like security and infrastructure adds to the complexity she will need to navigate. Political analysts note the importance of managing the military’s extensive responsibilities and fostering national reconciliation in a polarized political climate.

With the upcoming U.S. election, the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. remains critical, especially regarding trade, immigration, and drug trafficking issues. President Joe Biden has expressed eagerness to work with Sheinbaum, emphasizing the importance of the bilateral relationship. In her victory speech, Sheinbaum committed to a US-Mexico relationship based on mutual respect and vowed to defend Mexicans across the border.

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