Claudia Sheinbaum makes history as Mexico’s first female president-elect

Andrés Manuel López Obrador's handpicked successor earned a sweeping victory in a country known for its macho culture and traditional values

Claudia Sheinbaum, a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist, will become Mexico’s first female president after winning a landslide election victory and promising to continue the work of her mentor and outgoing leader, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Sheinbaum, 61, secured between 58.3% and 60.7% of votes, according to the INE electoral institute’s rapid sample count released late Sunday night, the most support won by a candidate in a Mexican presidential election since the end of one-party rule in 2000.

Accepting her victory, Sheinbaum thanked Lopez Obrador, calling him “an exceptional, unique man who has transformed Mexico for the better.”

“We made history!” Sheinbaum told a crowd early Monday morning in the Zocalo square in the heart of Mexico City.

Her victory is a major step for Mexico, a country known for its macho culture and home to the world’s second biggest Roman Catholic population, which for years pushed more traditional values and roles for women.

“It’s a historic moment, especially for women,” said Arlyn Rivera, a 24-year-old student, as she celebrated Sheinbaum’s victory in the Zocalo plaza. “Mexican politics deserves more than what we have had in recent years.”

Main opposition rival, Xochitl Galvez, conceded defeat after mustering just 26.6%-28.6% of votes, according to preliminary results.

Sheinbaum, who will take office on Oct. 1, is the first woman to win a general election in the United States, Mexico or Canada.

Mexico joins Latin American counterparts like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, which have voted women to the highest office.

Budget deficit

Sheinbaum has promised to expand the welfare policies that have driven Lopez Obrador’s popularity and her triumph, a tricky task while inheriting a hefty budget deficit and low economic growth.

Her agenda will be boosted by ample support in Congress. Rapid count results showed her ruling party Morena and allies on track for a possible supermajority in both houses of Congress.

She has vowed to improve security but has given few details and the election, the most violent in Mexico’s modern history with 38 candidates murdered, has reinforced massive security problems. Many analysts say organized crime groups expanded and deepened their influence during Lopez Obrador’s term.

Sunday’s vote was also marred by the killing of two people at polling stations in Puebla state. More people have been killed – over 185,000 – during the mandate of Lopez Obrador than during any other administration in Mexico’s modern history, although the homicide rate has been inching down.

“Unless she commits to making a game-changing level of investment in improving policing and reducing impunity, Sheinbaum will likely struggle to achieve a significant improvement in overall levels of security,” said Nathaniel Parish Flannery, an independent Latin America political risk analyst.

— Reuters


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