(CNN) — The ruling party called it the baton ceremony. But the opposition called it a “passing of the scepter”.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president who constitutionally cannot run for re-election, last month wanted to demonstrate his blessing to presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum in a very public way. So, in a ceremony outside a restaurant in Mexico City, not far from the National Palace, the seat of the country’s executive power, he handed the scepter to the expected successor.
Sheinbaum, the 61-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, a longtime political ally of López Obrador, thanked him for everything. Accepting the baton with the presidential candidate of the leftist Morena party, Scheinbaum said, “I will take full responsibility for the course set by our people and the change initiated by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”
When Mexicans go to the polls next June, they will elect two women to the presidency, something unprecedented in the country’s history. Four days before putting forward Morena Sheinbaum, the Mexican opposition coalition Frente Amplio selected Xóchitl Gálvez, a former senator from the conservative PAN party, as another strong female candidate.
This is not the first time Mexico has seen women aspire to the presidency; Before Sheinbaum and Gálvez, there were six other presidential candidates. But with both major political parties fielding women, effective December 2024 will mark the first time Mexico, a country previously known for machismo, will be ruled by a woman.
However, some critics say the shadow of the outgoing López Obrador looms over the race.
Scheinbaum and Galvez, candidates for the presidency of Mexico
Gálvez’s rise in Mexican politics was meteoric; This spring he said he was not a favorite of the parties PRI, PAN and PRD that now make up the Frente Amplio coalition. was A public dispute With López Obrador, he constantly attacked her as a “puppet”, “puppet” and “employee of the oligarchy” in press conferences – which made her famous.
In June, after successfully suing López Obrador, Gálvez went viral when he tried to enter the National Palace with a court order giving the president the right to respond. “This is not a show,” he told reporters at the gates of the National Palace. “The law is the law and that’s it.”
The daughter of an indigenous father and mestizo mother, Gálvez was former President Vicente Fox’s top domestic affairs official before becoming a senator. Unfiltered and irreverent, she described herself in an interview with CNN en Español as an “all-terrain woman of the 4×4 variety.”
In some ways, it seems progressive. Gálvez has advocated for the rights and well-being of indigenous and Afro-Mexican groups in the Mexican Congress, and at a regional forum in Monterrey earlier this year, he said oil-rich Mexico must switch to renewable energy. “We didn’t do it because we were stupid,” Galvez said unapologetically.
He also called for the continuation of leftist López Obrador’s pensions for all seniors and what he calls a “universal social security system” of welfare programs for large sections of the middle and lower classes.
But when it comes to security and the fight against organized crime, Galvez’s plan is based on what he describes as “intelligence, heart and a strong arm”: strengthening local and state police and giving them access to security services. Protect intelligence, security and victims and respect the rule of law.
Macario Schettino, a political analyst and professor of social sciences at the prestigious Mexican university ITESM, describes Galvez’s political motivation as impressive, considering that a few months ago he was not even considered a candidate with a national profile. “She barely started recording on political grounds and has already grown big. Many people in Mexico still don’t know her. She’s going to grow. […] Famously,” said Schettino, “Claudia Sheinbaum cannot move from where she is because she is already known by the majority of Mexicans.”
Meanwhile, Sheinbaum, a physicist with a doctorate in environmental engineering, would also be the first president of Jewish descent if he wins, though he rarely speaks publicly about his personal background and has governed as a secular leftist.
He is currently leading most polls and will be a formidable opponent to beat. Sheinbaum not only has the full support of the ruling party, but has long been in the spotlight as mayor of Mexico’s most important city for the past five years, until he resigned in June to run for president.
In politics, Scheinbaum has pledged to continue many of López Obrador’s policies and programs, including pensions for all senior citizens, scholarships for more than 12 million students, and free fertilizer for small farmers. But the high-profile former mayor rejects criticism of his close political alliance with the president. “We are certainly not a copy (of the president),” he said in July.
Still, he’s not shy about proclaiming the principles they share: “For the good of all, let’s put the poor first. You can’t have a rich government if the people are poor. Power is only a virtue when it’s used to serve the people,” Sheinbaum said, echoing the same campaign slogans López Obrador has used for years. said again.
López Obrador promises “full retirement”.
Schettino believes that the more popular López Obrador sees Sheinbaum as an extension of his power. He points to the roots of his Morena party in the authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for more than seven decades until 2000, known as “El Dinosaurio,” and the Party of the Democratic Revolution that branched from it. .
In 2012, López Obrador created Morena as a political party. Schettino today describes the party as a “tyranny” under the influence of López Obrador, referring to what he says is the current leader’s desire for the successor to stick closely to his own agenda. “President López Obrador, not only a dinosaur but a dinosaur with a tyrannical career, doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay in power,” Schettino said.
“I think he made Claudia’s candidacy,” Schettino said.
López Obrador, however, has repeatedly rejected accusations that he has authoritarian leanings or is backing a candidate he can control. Earlier this year, López Obrador denied that he had any favorites among his party’s candidates or that he was pushing a candidate behind the scenes.
He has also said that he will “completely retire” after his six-year term ends.
“I’m going to retire, I’m not going to participate in any more public events, of course, I’m not going to take any position, I don’t want to be an adviser to anybody, I’m 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 told reporters in February.