President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum. (AP)

President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum. (AP)


AS/COA Insider: Carin Zissis on the Results of Mexico's 2024 Elections

In Congress and gubernatorial races, Mexico saw “a dominant win by Morena that defied expectations,” says the AS/COA Online editor-in-chief.

The Mexican electorate made history on Sunday, June 2, by electing the country's first woman president. Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum triumphed in a landslide victory, with at least 59 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. Sheinbaum's governing Morena party was also projected to hold a two-thirds majority in the Chamber of Deputies and possibly the Senate, leaving the opposition weakened. 

"We're talking about the potential for major constitutional changes," says Carin Zissis, editor-in-chief of AS/COA Online. She explains the significance of Mexico electing its first woman president, why voters overwhelmingly chose her, and what Morena's victories in Congress could mean for the country. 

AS/COA Online: Polls predicted a victory for Sheinbaum, but this was a landslide victory. Did you expect she would win with around 59 percent of the vote? 

Carin Zissis

Zissis: The portion of the vote that she won was not so surprising. Many polls were showing her winning about 50-something percent of the vote, but what was notable is that she beat her main contender, Xóchitl Gálvez, by wider margin than expected—30 points. Not only that, but she won more votes than President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018.

That means she is the president who has won the greatest portion of the vote since Mexico entered its democratic transition. It is remarkable for the first woman president of Mexico to also be able to declare that she is the president who won by the greatest margin. 

AS/COA Online: This was the largest election in Mexico's history, and it will reshape the country's political landscape. What can you tell us about the results for federal and local seats, and what do they mean for the governing party, Morena? 

Zissis: There were 20,000 seats up for grabs across the country. But one thing that's very notable in this huge election, and where Morena really defied expectations, was in the legislature and gubernatorial races. The party won a much larger portion of Congress than was anticipated. It is very likely that Morena and its allies will have a two-third majority in the lower house of Congress. And it's possible they could even have a two-third majority in the Senate that would allow the Morena coalition to be able to push through constitutional reforms. That's a huge development. 

This is important because AMLO laid out a 20-point reform agenda in February. Eighteen of those reforms were constitutional reforms that involve measures such as the elimination of a proportional representation seats in Congress, direct voting of Supreme Court justices by popular vote, and elimination of regulatory agencies. We're talking about the potential for major constitutional changes that are now more likely to pass. 

In addition, this new Congress with a strengthened Morena bench will be sworn in on September 1. Now, the presidential inauguration isn't until October 1. AMLO will still be president for the first month when this new, more-Morena-friendly Congress is in power. And that means he will be able to take initial steps toward ushering through some of these reforms.

There were also nine gubernatorial seats up for grabs, and many were polling as competitive. There were some indications that Morena would actually lose some seats. Instead, it not only kept all of its seats, but it won by a landslide in many cases. It also picked up the state of Yucatán, so it  won seven state. Morena and its allies will now be governing 24 out of Mexico's 32 states. 

So, between just looking at Congress and the gubernatorial races, including Mexico City, arguably the second most important seat in the country, we are talking about a dominant win by Morena that defied expectations. 

AS/COA Online: Why did voters overwhelmingly vote for Sheinbaum?

Zissis: Sheinbaum and Morena's campaign was  more active on the ground. The president-elect made many more campaign stops across the country than did the presidential rivals. There are reports that, if you look at different states, Morena's propaganda support for Claudia Sheinbaum was much more present. 

In addition, many voters here in Mexico did not trust the main opposition alliance. The three traditional parties that made up the main opposition coalition—the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD—are former political foes but also had much lower levels of popularity than does Morena. And so, for a lot of people, it wasn't clear why these three parties were united. We also saw that Gálvez, in one debate, suggested that she had never been a militant or a member of any of the three parties to try to distance herself from them because they are so unpopular. But then, in another debate, she spoke about the fact that she represented them, adding to the mixed messaging.

AS/COA Online: What will people pay more attention to regarding Sheinbaum's next steps now? 

Zissis: People will be asking: "To what degree will she be governing in AMLO's shadow?" She was seen as his chosen successor, he was her political mentor, and she got her political start in his government when she was mayor of Mexico City. She has pledged continuity and will follow through with his reform agenda. 

We will see to what degree she really sticks to that. The fact that Morena won so broadly makes the case that we'll be more likely to see continuity. But we'll have to see who Claudia Sheinbaum decides to be when she takes office on October 1. 

In terms of specific issues, we have heard people name security repeatedly as their biggest concern. So, people will be watching what does she do on this front. Will she stick to AMLO's policy of "hugs, not bullets" but also a more militarized approach in many ways in the country? Will she make some changes, and what will they be? Health, education, and economic opportunities are also real concerns among voters. 

Then, she'll have some external pressures such financial issues that she'll have to deal with. There's a general perception that she's not as charismatic as AMLO. How will she work with the future U.S. president? There's a lot still to be determined.

AS/COA Online: What is the significance of Sheinbaum being the first woman president in Mexico? 

Zissis: One of the truly historic aspects of Claudia Sheinbaum's win is the fact that she will be Mexico's first woman president. Now, we do have to remember that Mexico, during its democratic transition over the past 25 or so years, has been implementing a series of quotas that have elevated women into positions of political representation. And that has a lot to do with why we have become used to seeing women in political leadership positions in Mexico. But it is fascinating to see that she will be the president of the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. And it is an inspiration for many in a country where women have only had the right to vote for the last 70 years.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.