Sheinbaum Needs to Deliver Real Transformation for Mexico

Sheinbaum Needs to Deliver Real Transformation for Mexico
Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum greets supporters after the National Electoral Institute announced she held an irreversible lead in the country’s presidential election, in Mexico City, June 3, 2024 (AP photo by Fernando Llano).

Claudia Sheinbaum won yesterday’s presidential election in Mexico by approximately a 30-point margin according to the preliminary count and will become Mexico’s first woman president. The ruling Morena party, founded by her predecessor and mentor, outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, will have a majority of the seats in the Congress and may have a supermajority that allows for constitutional changes. The ruling party also appears to have done well in many of the state and local elections conducted yesterday, including a victory by Clara Brugada in the race to succeed Sheinbaum as Mexico City’s mayor.

Sheinbaum is a historic candidate. In addition to being Mexico’s first woman president, she is a secular Jew and the daughter of immigrants from Europe. She has a doctorate in energy engineering and served on the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meaning she has the academic background to successfully navigate Mexico’s energy and environmental policy. She is a skillful politician, and most observers believe she did an excellent job as mayor of Mexico City, managing the economy and security on the municipal level better than they were handled on the national level. On those qualifications, she is deserving of the presidency.

And yet, nearly every article about Sheinbaum’s campaign in recent weeks has actually been about Lopez Obrador, or AMLO. Unfortunately, despite how qualified she is, Sheinbaum did not win this election on her own merits. Sheinbaum ran a cautious campaign in which she refused to acknowledge any differences from the current president, despite there being a number of them. It was AMLO’s political machine that delivered Sheinbaum the primary victory to become the Morena party’s candidate and then the victory in the national election. In the process, AMLO continues to control many levers of power, including the Morena party base that Sheinbaum will need in order to govern. Even worse, Lopez Obrador’s political reforms of recent years mean the next president will face a revocation referendum halfway through her term, leaving her vulnerable to her predecessor’s manipulations for the next few years. In short, the current president is handing the presidency to Sheinbaum in the worst style of Mexico’s presidents of the 20th century.

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