A sample ballot for Morena's presidential contenders. (Morena Party Twitter account)

Explainer: How Will Mexico's Morena Party Pick AMLO's Potential Successor?

By Carin Zissis and Chase Harrison

The governing alliance reveals its presidential aspirant September 6. AS/COA Online covers the rivals and process in the path to the June 2024 election.

This article was originally published on June 13, 2023, and has since been updated with new information.

Mexicans won’t choose their next president until June next year, but by September 6 they will know a major contender for the role. That’s when governing party Morena will reveal which one of its contenders will compete to succeed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Often referred to as AMLO, the popular leader is limited by the Constitution to serve one, six-year term. Still, the fate of his legacy-focused movement, known as the Fourth Transformation, may lie in his successor. 

“I am the bottle opener, and my favorite bottle cap will be the one chosen by the people," said AMLO two years ago. Now, Morena’s June 11 announcement outlining the selection process involves five simultaneous polls as part of a pledge to provide equal footing, and put an end to the dedazo: Mexico’s long-held political tradition of the president picking his successor. Yet most of the candidate—known as corcholatas, Spanish for bottle caps—are in AMLO’s inner circle. Many consider one corcholata to be his first choice: ex-Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. Since early in AMLO’s presidency, pollsters have gauged interest in the 2024 hopefuls, and she has polled first for some time, with former Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard taking the second spot.

Morena’s selection process is unprecedented, and observers say it bends and breaks electoral laws. Among other issues, Mexican law indicates that the country’s electoral agency doesn’t define the calendar, spending, and candidate registration dates until September prior to an election date and pre-campaigns cannot begin until the November. News outlet Expansión Política has even carried a series documenting the “Diary of the (non-) campaigns.” 

As such, the aspirant named on September 6 will be labeled the party “coordinator,” though she or he will be the presumptive pre-candidate. And while the opposition has criticized Morena’s process, the main opposition alliance—known as the Frente Amplio por México—held its own parallel process. On August 30, Senator Xóchitl Gálvez of the National Action Party became the presumptive presidential aspirant for the Frente.

The calendar and the selection process

June 12 to 16: Period during which aspirants indicated their interest in participating and stepped down from their positions. The contest is limited to six people. Four of the aspirants are morenistas: Sheinbaum, Ebrard, Interior Minister Adán Augusto López Hernández, and Senator Ricardo Monreal. Two other aspirants come from allied parties: Congressman Gerardo Fernández Noroña of the leftist Worker’s Party (PT) and former Senator Manuel Velasco of the Green Party (PVEM).

June 19 to August 27: During this period, contenders travel throughout the country "to inform about the achievements of the Fourth Transformation and promote democracy."

Though some of the hopefuls had pushed to hold public debates as part of the process, none will be held. 

The rivals also agreed to avoid "reactionary, conservative news outlets” seen as critical of Morena’s political movement. AMLO has frequently used the word "conservative" as a label for coverage perceived as critical of his government and for investigative reporting that uncovers corruption linked to members of his administration. 

August 28 to September 3: Period during which five polls are to take place to determine the candidate. 

Morena’s polling committee will conduct one of the five polls. In addition, per the Morena plan, each aspirant could present two "prestigious, professional, and experienced" polling firms and, from that list, four were to be selected through lottery. The polling firms have signed a confidentiality agreement and will not be revealed until September 6, when the aspirant will be announced.

The five polls will be conducted simultaneously during this timeframe. Each will poll 2,500 people in person for a total pool of 12,500 selecting the candidate. The five polls will be conducted simultaneously during this timeframe. The poll involves a series of questions on political matters and about the demographic background of respondents, as well as the key question: which of the six rivals the respondent prefers. That question is worth 75 percent of the decision to select the aspirant. The ballot to select one of the six candidates has drawn attention as it is round, much like a pie, with six slices displaying the names of each of the candidates. Party leadership has indicated it chose this shape to avoid a more typical ballot listing the names that could create bias due to the order of the candidates. 

September 4 to September 6: Polling information will be processed. In the case that all five polls do not produce the same results, three or four that do agree will be selected. 

September 6: Morena’s leadership will disclose the poll results, and the party’s candidate will be announced. The other five contenders cannot contest the result. However, in the final weeks of the process, Ebrard suggested Morena has unfairly favored Sheinbaum. Morena’s party leadership rejected the claim

Claudia Sheinbaum
Claudia Sheinbaum

Viewed as the race’s frontrunner, Sheinbaum has been frequently covered by domestic and international press as a likely successor. A trained physicist and energy engineer, Sheinbaum served on a UN climate change body that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Her first political role was in AMLO’s administration as his environment minister when he was mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, and she served as his campaign spokesperson in his 2006 presidential campaign. Sheinbaum was the head of the capital’s largest delegation, Tlalpan, from 2015 until getting voted in as mayor in 2018. While she got her political start in the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), she joined Morena when it splintered off from the PRD in 2014. 

As head of the city’s government, Sheinbaum has sought to bring López Obrador’s Fourth Transformation to the capital. Key projects she highlights include building a solar power facility and the expansion of educational scholarships, unemployment insurance, and universal pension programs. However, she has received criticism for a deadly metro collapse in May 2021.

Fun fact: Last year, Sheinbaum participated in Mexico City's successful attempt to conduct the world’s largest fitness trampoline class.

Successor: Sheinbaum, who stepped down June 16, named Martí Batres, her interior minister, to succeed her.

Marcelo Ebrard
Marcelo Ebrard

Like López Obrador, Ebrard is an ex-mayor of Mexico City. During his 2006–2012 tenure, he championed socially progressive causes, including overseeing the legalization of gay marriage and the decriminalization of abortion in the city. But, like Sheinbaum, he was caught up in scandal surrounding the deadly metro collapse, given that he governed while it was built

He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2018 to 2023. In that position, he played an important role in negotiating major bilateral issues, including a prominent case in which then-U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on Mexican goods if Mexico didn’t not agree to stop the flow of immigration at the countries’ shared border.

A seasoned politician who, like many, got his start in the once all-powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in various roles including federal legislator, Ebrard eventually worked in the PRD and other, smaller parties before joining Morena. In 2000, he gave up on his own ambitions to run for the capital’s mayoralty to support AMLO’s bid and worked in his government. In 2012, his presidential bid was quashed when AMLO won the PRD nomination. "My time is now," he argued in 2022, saying he had been preparing for the presidency for 40 years. As of late, Ebrard has has stepped up his focus on social media, especially TikTok, where he has more followers than any other Mexican politician. 

Fun fact: Ebrard had a hand in convincing mariachi singer Vicente Fernández to perform a corrido supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. 

Successor: AMLO chose Alicia Bárcena, who headed the UN Economic Commission for Latin America for 14 years, to replace Ebrard. A trained biologist, she had been the Mexican Ambassador to Chile since September 2022.

Adán Augusto López Hernández
Adán Augusto López Hernández

Not only does López Hernández share a surname with the current president, the two politicians both hail from the southeastern state of Tabasco. After a stint in the federal legislature, López Hernández served as the state’s governor starting in 2018. He stepped down from the role in 2021 to become AMLO’s interior minister, a powerful position with jurisdiction over a portfolio of top domestic issues. López Hernández has helped AMLO steer reforms through Congress, including legislation related to public security and electoral changes. As secretary, he also stood first in the line of succession to the presidency. He stepped in for AMLO when the president contracted Covid-19. He is perceived to be a top choice for and close confidant of AMLO, who has described him by saying: “Adán is my brother, my friend.” 

Fun fact: Though he appears to copy AMLO’s folksy style, López Hernández has a master’s degree from France’s Paris-Panthéon-Assas University. 

Successor: López Hernández handed in his resignation on June 15 and his temporary replacement is the Deputy Minister of Human Rights Alejandro Encinas.

Ricardo Monreal
Ricardo Monreal

Senator Monreal has held the full spectrum of political roles in Mexico: representing his home state of Zacatecas in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, serving as that state’s governor from 1998 to 2004, and leading Mexico City’s Cuauhtémoc delegation—which accounts for over a third of Mexico City’s total GDP—from 2015 to 2017. His career has also taken him on a tour of the country’s political parties; he’s been a member of the PRI, the PRD, the PT, and Citizen’s Movement before arriving to Morena. 

Monreal has called himself "the secret weapon" of Morena in the Senate, but in a party where leaders seek to align themselves closely with AMLO, he has diverged from the path at times. He, for example, helped shepherd an extension of the National Guard’s mandate through Congress but abstained in voting to reorganize the oversight of the organization. He also voted against AMLO’s controversial electoral reform, dubbed Plan B.

Monreal has acknowledged his underdog status, calling himself "a rebel with a cause" and acknowledging that he is not an insider like Morena’s three other corcholatas but hopes to win voters over with his "autonomy." 

Fun fact: Monreal is one of 14 siblings, many of whom are active in Zacatecan politics.

Successor: Monreal’s Senate seat will now be held by Alejandro Rojas Díaz-Durán, a former federal deputy. On June 13, the Morena Senators unanimously voted former Senate President Eduardo Ramírez of Chiapas as their leader.

Other candidates

Two candidates seeking the Morena nomination are not from the party but earn a contention spot as they represent smaller parties within Morena’s "Together We Make History" coalition. 

Francisco Noroña

Gerardo Fernández Noroña of the PT is a current federal deputy, a long-time activist, and a leftist figure in Mexican politics who has been detained multiple times while protesting during prior presidencies. AMLO called him his "little brother from the leftist struggle."

Noroña is among a group of legislators who formed the Mexico-Russia Friendship Group early in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. A number of U.S. congresspeople asked the State Department to revoke his U.S. visa in response.

Unlike the other five aspirants, he will not appear with his full name on Morena’s circular ballot, instead showing up simply as “Noroña.”

Fun fact: A controversial Twitter presence, he drew attention in 2019 when he went in person to Twitter's Mexico City office to protest his temporary suspension from the platform.

Successor: Francisco Javier Guerrero Varela will replace Noroña in the Chamber of Deputies.

Manuel Velasco

Manuel Velasco represents the Ecological Green Party of Mexico, a party infamous for its opportunistic strategy of allying itself with larger parties as they gain power. Velasco most recently served as a senator for Chiapas and was previously that state’s governor (2012–2018). In that role, he was linked to several high-profile scandals, including one that embezzlement of public funds by ghost companies. Velasco’s PVEM leadership in the Senate allowed him to help with the passage of the Morena coalition’s agenda. 

Fun fact: Velasco is married to pop star Anahí Puente, known for her participation in the supergroup RBD.

Successor: Federal Deputy Eduardo Enrique Murat Hinojosa will replace Velasco in the Senate.  The PVEM will now be led by Senator Raúl Bolaños Cacho Cué.