Thursday, February 29, 2024

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    Historic Presidential Showdown Looms as Mexico’s Morena Party Nominates Claudia Sheinbaum

    A Pioneering Moment: Mexican Voters to Choose Between Two Leading Female Candidates in 2024 Election

    In a watershed moment that promises to reshape the political landscape of Mexico, the ruling Morena party has made a historic choice, anointing Claudia Sheinbaum, a former mayor of Mexico City, as its standard-bearer for the upcoming 2024 presidential election. This remarkable decision marks a turning point in the world’s largest Spanish-speaking nation, as voters are poised to select between two formidable female contenders for the highest office in the land.

    “Today democracy has triumphed. Today, the people of Mexico have spoken,” declared Ms. Sheinbaum with conviction during the momentous announcement. She expressed unwavering confidence that her party, Morena, shall emerge victorious in the 2024 electoral contest, emphasizing that the electoral process commences without delay. “Tomorrow marks the inception of the electoral journey, and there is no time to spare,” she proclaimed.

    Claudia Sheinbaum, aged 61, brings to the forefront a distinguished background in physics, holding a doctorate in environmental engineering. She is a protege of Mexico’s incumbent president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose mentorship has been instrumental in shaping her political trajectory. Ms. Sheinbaum’s association with the popular incumbent grants her a significant advantage, given the high approval ratings enjoyed by President López Obrador, who is constitutionally limited to a single six-year term.

    Notably, President López Obrador has steadfastly maintained that he will wield no influence post his presidential tenure, declaring in March, “I am going to retire completely. I am not a chieftain, much less do I feel irreplaceable. I am not a strongman; I am not a messiah.” Nevertheless, some analysts speculate that his influence will endure irrespective of the 2024 election outcome. A recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that if Ms. Sheinbaum secures victory, certain policy shifts may transpire while preserving the broad contours of President López Obrador’s agenda.

    Should Ms. Sheinbaum falter, the report posits that President López Obrador’s substantial base of loyal supporters could bestow upon him enduring influence. Some legacies of his administration, such as austerity measures and the expanded role of the military in social, security, and infrastructure domains, may pose formidable challenges for Ms. Xóchitl Gálvez, her main rival, if she seeks to reverse these policies.

    As the two formidable female candidates engage in a spirited campaign, they share striking similarities. While both may not explicitly identify as feminists, they champion socially progressive causes and boast engineering degrees, aligning with the maintenance of popular antipoverty programs. In a significant convergence of their positions, both candidates advocate for the decriminalization of abortion, a stance that differs starkly from Ms. Gálvez’s conservative party.

    Notably, on the same day as Ms. Sheinbaum’s nomination, Mexico’s Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking decision by decriminalizing abortion nationwide, following a prior ruling granting officials the authority to permit the procedure on a state-by-state basis.

    In a noteworthy distinction, Ms. Sheinbaum, born to Jewish parents in Mexico City, could become Mexico’s first Jewish president, should she secure victory in the electoral race. Her candidacy has faced misinformation campaigns on social media falsely claiming her birthplace as Bulgaria, the country from which her mother’s family emigrated. Supporters of Ms. Sheinbaum have vehemently decried these efforts as antisemitic.

    Ms. Sheinbaum’s academic journey encompasses studies in physics and energy engineering in Mexico, culminating in doctoral research conducted at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her foray into politics commenced under Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s tutelage when she assumed the role of his top environmental official during his tenure as the mayor of Mexico City. Upon her own election as mayor in 2018, Ms. Sheinbaum undertook prominent responsibilities in public transit and environmental stewardship, although her tenure was not without criticism, particularly in the wake of tragic incidents in the city’s transportation systems, including a devastating metro overpass collapse resulting in multiple fatalities.

    With polls positioning Ms. Sheinbaum as the frontrunner, her alignment with President López Obrador’s policies has required steadfast loyalty, even in instances where she may have held differing perspectives. Her unflinching commitment to the president has earned her both acclaim and scrutiny.

    However, amidst her fidelity to President López Obrador’s vision, Ms. Sheinbaum has indicated potential departures, notably expressing support for renewable energy sources. In marked contrast, her rival, Ms. Gálvez, a senator who frequently traverses Mexico City on an electric bicycle, highlights her Indigenous Otomí heritage and mestiza lineage as key aspects of her identity. Hailing from a small town without running water, she navigated the hurdles of poverty to emerge as an engineer and entrepreneur, founding a company specializing in communications and energy network design.

    Ms. Gálvez’s diverse experiences include serving as the head of the presidential office for Indigenous peoples under President Vicente Fox in 2000 and subsequently being elected as a senator representing the conservative National Action Party in 2018. She has been a target of President López Obrador’s verbal attacks, inadvertently elevating her profile while underscorelining the influence wielded by the president and his party nationwide.

    The road to the 2024 election has witnessed significant changes in Mexico’s political landscape, with the traditional practice of presidential candidates being handpicked by sitting presidents giving way to a more inclusive selection process. Historically, Mexican political parties tended to select their candidates opaquely, but this new approach emphasizes public opinion polls and strives for a fairer competition for candidacies.

    Nonetheless, concerns linger over the transparency of this new selection process, with allegations of irregularities and a lack of clarity raised by analysts and other presidential hopefuls. Both Morena, the governing party, and the Broad Front for Mexico, a broad opposition coalition, employed public opinion polls that have not been fully transparent, raising questions about the democratic nature of these procedures.

    This transformation in candidate selection has also bypassed federal campaign regulations, with key figures in both Morena and the opposition advancing the selection process ahead of schedule, designating Ms. Sheinbaum and Ms. Gálvez as “coordinators” of their respective coalitions instead of explicitly labeling them as candidates. These developments have attracted scrutiny and criticism from various quarters, including political experts and electoral authorities.

    As Mexico looks ahead to the general election in 2024, where voters will not only choose a president but also members of Congress, the political landscape stands at a critical juncture. The outcome of the election may determine whether Mexico reverts to a dominant-party system, akin to the once-hegemonic Institutional Revolutionary Party, which maintained uninterrupted power for 71 years until 2000.

    Despite certain challenges, signs of this transformation are already evident. In June, Morena’s candidate emerged victorious in the gubernatorial race in the State of Mexico, the nation’s most populous state, defeating the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. This triumph expanded Morena’s control to 23 out of 32 states, a significant increase from the seven states under their influence at the commencement of President López Obrador’s term in 2018.

    The question that looms large is whether Morena will evolve into a dominant political force akin to the old PRI. This transformation will be contingent on the resilience and efficacy of the opposition’s efforts in the coming electoral battle, a defining moment in Mexican politics.

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