By ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER
Far more contested than the candidacy for the Mexican presidency is the upcoming battle to see who will become the next governor of Mexico City.
Both elections will be determined in 2024, and while the results of the presidential poll are pretty much a given — current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party is seen as a shoo-in and current Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum is the predicted winner for the Morena presidential candidacy (she is AMLO’s favorite) — the fight to rule the nation’s capital is more uncertain.
In the 2021 elections, the political map of Mexico City, once considered a solid bastion of the left, was dramatically rewritten as many former Morena supporters cast their votes for opposition parties.
It is true that 2021 was another political time, since the Va por México alliance, composed of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was then a novelty that seemed hopeful for those who did not share the socialist objectives of López Obrador. But while at the federal level today things do not look promising for the opposition coalition because it has not been able to consolidate its message or platform, in Mexico City Va por México is gaining traction.
AMLO’s consistent lambasting of the capital’s middle class has not endeared him to this particular segment of society. Following the 2021 electoral result, in which Morena lost a large section of Mexico City’s municipal mayorships, Lopez Obrador only hardened his aggressive stance against the middle class, calling them “corrupt” and “immoral.”
Rather than trying to win back the support of middle class Mexican City voters, AMLO demonstrated once again his lack of tolerance for criticism, as well as his inability to admit his own shortcomings.
In order to compete for the Mexico City governorship in 2024, Morena has three viable pre-candidates: Rosa Icela Rodríguez, a hard-working member of AMLO’s close inner circle who currently is the head of Mexico’s Citizen’s Security and Protection Secretariat (SSPC); Martí Batres Guadarrama, another AMLO-phile who has toed the party line since the mid-1990s, serving both as head of Morena in Mexico City and as a local legislator; and Omar García Harfuch, the head of the capital’s police force and a political outsider who is not particularly close to López Obrador, but who has the support of Sheinbaum, as well as general public approval.
Within the PRI, there definitely isn’t now, and surely won’t be then, a feasible candidate. If at the national level the PRI is in ruins, in Mexico City, the once-powerful party is currently completely demolished. The effect of its controversial leader, Alejandro “Alito” Moreno, has only served to disgrace the party in the eyes of most Mexicans, hammering in the last nails of its political coffin.
Consequently, the PAN seems to be the party most likely to be able to win against Morena in the Mexico City race, but only if it forms an opposition with a very high citizen component that has not yet been consolidated. In 2021, it was the National Action Party that received the votes of the discontent of the capital’s middle class with the president’s policies and rudeness. Those were citizen votes, to punish the president, more than votes in favor of an opposition that has not been able to articulate itself or build an alternative proposal, something that PAN members would do well to remember.
The PAN in Mexico City had four candidates, but only three remain. Jorge Romero Herrera, the former head of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez municipality, spent all of his political capital to win that post, but today his political and personal situation has changed radically. Before the opposition victory in Mexico City, Romero had planned to lead the party on a national level, taking advantage of the gaps left by the childish PAN leadership of Marko Cortés. But then he switched gears and began to set his sights on the Mexico City governorship. Unfortunately for him, his political ambitions were smashed by a still-evolving real estate scandal in his district in which he has been legally implicated.
That leaves the blue-bannered PAN with just three possible candidates to run for the Mexico City seat in 2024: Santiago Taboada, who is the current mayor of the Benito Juárez municipality, if he can manage to keep his head low and steer clear for the fallout as the judicial prosecution of Romero’s group continues to explode; Lía Limón, mayor of the Álvaro Obregón municipality, as long as she can exploit the files she has managed to obtain revealing the corruption of her Morena predecessor, Layda Sansores, who is now governor of Campeche; and Federal Senator Xóchitl Gálvez, who has a proven political track record, strong popularity and the courage to take on even the most corrupt Morena members. Indeed, Gálvez has the political credentials to run for the presidency, but seems more interested in going after the Mexico City governor seat.
If the PAN wants to preserve its competitive status in Mexico City, it will have to do two things: On the one hand, it must isolate its dynamics from the division that prevails in the Va por México coalition at a national level and, simultaneously, it must divorce itself from Romero and his real estate scandal. If it can accomplish this, the party has a good chance of winning the election.
Yes, the battle for Mexico City will be unlike that of the contest for the Mexican presidency. Culturally speaking, the capital of the country is the most middle class of all Mexican cities. And López Obrador’s unrelenting assault on Mexico’s middle class practically guarantees that polarization will be maintained and the rebellion of an aspirational middle class will only grow.
With an entire 20 percent of the nation’s population living in Mexico City and its suburbs, this is a significant chunk of the nation’s constituency, and should be a concern for Morena and a possible predictor of what it can expect in the future.
Some polls suggest that Morena has regained part of its former turf in Mexico City, but everyone in Morena knows full well that the only poll that will matter in the end is the election process itself. The decisions and words of López Obrador can easily sway how that polling will go. AMLO is an angry and aggressive man who has waged his own personal war on the capital’s middle class, and that could bode poorly for Morena in the 2024 elections.