Navigating Mexico: The 2024 Presidential Elections
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
Mexico’s next presidential elections are still a long time away, slated for June 2, 2024, when 128 senators, 500 federal representatives, nine governors (including the governor of Mexico City) and, of course, a new federal president will be decided.
Technically, official campaigning is not supposed to begin until the end of the fifth year of the current presidential term.
But now that two key governor elections, in the heavily populated and key states of Coahuila and the State of Mexico (EdoMéx) took place on Sunday, June 4, the race for Mexico’s next president has begun for all practical purposes, despite the official rules set down for the National Electoral Institute (INE).
Mexican voters in the north, who often have more in common with the United States than the federal government in Mexico City, clearly lean away from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, and that was clearly the case in the northern state of Coahuila.
But Sunday’s results in the central State of Mexico race showed just the opposite, with politically divided municipalities.
While the absolute winners counted in both states, what both the currently incumbent Morena and the opposition were measuring as an indictor of what will happen in 2024 party was the margin factor.
The Coahuila race results came as no surprise and the opposition centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Manolo Jiménez won easily as predicted.
On the other hand, in the EdoMéx race, Morena candidate Delfina Gómez barely won, and the margin factor was extremely close, meaning voters could still be swayed during the upcoming year for the presidential election.
Up until the election victory of former President Vicente Fox in 2000, the incumbent party’s candidate was pretty much a given and the voting process was simple.
Several potential candidates were paraded around before the sitting president chose his favorite to be the party’s next candidate, There were no primary elections and no debates. And what stump speeches there were only touched on time-honored party ideology.
From there, the streets would be filled with paper election propaganda, fences and walls painted with slogans and the internal political machinary would go to work in small towns and villages reminding Mexico’s poorest citizens to vote for the PRI in exchange for food baskets, 100-pound bags of cement or water tanks for the roof of their homes.
It was a well-oiled, one-party machine and the PRI “magically” won each year.
But that all changed in 2000 when Fox, from the conservative opposition National Action Party (PAN) won the presidency and set in play a pluralistic system that allowed for power sharing and, eventually, the entrance of Morena in 2018.
Under AMLO, Morena has been relatively united, but as the 2024 elections near, there are new divisions within the party as three likely candidates vie for the position
With the EdoMéx and Coahuila elections behind them, the Morena candidate wannabes want to move full-throttle forward, avoiding any suggestion of less-than-full-party unity.
Leading the Morena presidential pack is Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum, the personal favorite of AMLO. She recently had the audacity to say she does not believe in internal party debates because it is the party’s vision, not hers, which must be held high, a typical populist strategy. However, very few Mexicans know who she actually is beyond her daily parroting of key López Obrador phrases. Her low profile and even lower-luster personality make her a safe candidate, but she is clueless on the international scene and has no political experience outside of Mexico City. She also has some serious political baggage with repeated metro derailments and her inability to bring those derelict in the metro construction to justice as well as losing key Mexico City municipalities to opposition parties.
Perhaps the most experienced Morena hopeful, Marcelo Ebrard, current head of the Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE), has made it clear he wants a defined and transparent process. But Ebrard has his own set of baggage and actually lived in exile in France until recently due to criminal charges that haunted him from his term as Mexico City mayor.
Then there is Adán Augusto López Hernández, currently the secretary of the interior, brought in from AMLO’s state of Tabasco after a major cabinet switch. Some say he is AMLO’s true favorite to succeed him since they are bosom-buddies and López Hernández has been an effective clean-up man whose strong arm has kept the Morena party from unraveling. Just like Sheinbaum, no one knows who he really is. He has no prior political experience outside of Tabasco and is challenged to string sentences together in Spanish, making him a poor public speaker.
None of the three are dynamic or charismatic. But it is what it is. The party will need to pick one of these three less-than-ideal choices — and likely sooner than later.
The sooner that happens, the better for party unity. All three want the job and getting two to roll-over and not cry foul for not being the anointed will take some work. Public debates among the three, even to allude to transparency, is dangerous and party unity could further crumble. For months, not-too-hidden slogans have been popping up all over the country promoting each of the three. The country is clearly polarized.
Once the candidate — whether selected in some internal process or picked from a rabbit hat — is announced, the opposition parties will put forth their candidates and the real fun will begin.
Mexico publicly finances elections. The more enlightened parties know that streets littered with banners and TV spots will not do the trick, especially since all parties need the youth vote. Social media will ramp up like we have never before seen.
The small victory margin of Gómez in the State of Mexico race could be a sign that Morena is losing ground for having a strong-win margin for the 2024 presidential race.
And so much can happen in a year that can turn the political tide one way or another.
So hold on to your seats. Even if you are a foreigner in Mexico, the next year will be a a very bumpy ride.