Mexico will get its first woman president in historic vote By Reuters

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By Lizbeth Diaz and Sarah Kinosian

MEXICO CITY -Mexican voters endured long waits on Sunday to cast ballots in a historic election expected to make leftist Claudia Sheinbaum, the ruling party candidate, the country’s first woman president.

Sheinbaum has led in opinion polls over her main competitor Xochitl Galvez, who represents an opposition coalition comprised of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the right-wing PAN and the leftist PRD party.

A victory by either woman would represent a major step for Mexico, a country known for its macho culture. The winner, set to begin a six-year term on Oct. 1, will face formidable challenges including addressing organized crime violence.

On her way to vote on Sunday morning, Sheinbaum told journalists it was a “historic day” and that she felt at ease and content.

“Everyone must get out to vote,” Sheinbaum, a physicist and former Mexico City mayor, said on local TV.

Galvez, a businesswoman and senator, chatted with supporters as she arrived to cast her ballot shortly after polls opened.

“God is with me,” Galvez said, adding that she was expecting a difficult day.

Outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Sheinbaum’s mentor, greeted supporters and posed for photos as he walked from the presidential palace to vote with his wife.

There were long lines of voters outside polling places, even before they opened at 8 a.m. local time (1400 GMT), with some reports of delayed openings.

“It seems like a dream to me. I never imagined that one day I would vote for a woman,” said 87-year-old Edelmira Montiel, a Sheinbaum supporter in Tlaxcala, Mexico’s smallest state.

“Before we couldn’t even vote, and when you could, it was to vote for the person your husband told you to vote for. Thank God that has changed and I get to live it,” Montiel added.

The campaign has been marred by violence, with 38 candidates murdered including a local candidate who was fatally shot on Saturday night. That is the highest toll in Mexico’s modern history, stoking concerns about the threat of warring drug cartels to democracy.

Almost 100 million Mexicans are eligible to vote in Sunday’s election. Other positions up for grabs include Mexico City’s mayor, eight governorships and both chambers of Congress. About 20,000 elected positions are on ballots, the most in Mexico’s history.

The polls will close at 6 p.m. local time (0000 GMT on Monday). The first official preliminary results are expected late on Sunday.

‘FLOODED WITH BLOOD’

“The country is flooded with blood as a result of so much corruption,” said Rosa Maria Baltazar, 69, a voter in Mexico City’s upper-middle class Del Valle neighborhood. “I wish for a change of government for my country, something for a better life.”

Lopez Obrador has loomed over the campaign, seeking to turn the vote into a referendum on his political agenda. Sheinbaum has rejected opposition claims that she would be a “puppet” of Lopez Obrador, though she has pledged to continue many of his policies including those that have helped Mexico’s poorest.

Polls indicate that Morena is likely to fall short of securing a two-thirds majority in Congress. That would make it more difficult for Sheinbaum to push constitutional reforms past opposition parties, including the PRI, which ruled Mexico for about seven decades until democratic elections in 2000.

Challenges ahead for the next president also include addressing electricity and water shortages and luring manufacturers to relocate as part of the nearshoring trend, in which companies move supply chains closer to their main markets. The election winner also will have to wrestle with what to do with Pemex, the state oil giant that has seen production decline for two decades and is drowning in debt.

Both candidates have promised to expand welfare programs, though Mexico has a large deficit this year and sluggish GDP growth of just 1.5% expected by the central bank next year.

The new president will face tense negotiations with the United States over the huge flows of U.S.-bound migrants crossing Mexico and security cooperation over drug trafficking at a time when the U.S. fentanyl epidemic rages.

Mexican officials expect these negotiations to be more difficult if the U.S. presidency is won by Donald Trump in November. Trump, the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime, has vowed to impose 100% tariffs on Chinese cars made in Mexico and said he would mobilize special forces to fight the cartels.

Sam Castillo, a 25-year-old dancer who lives between Oaxaca state and Mexico City, said he hoped Sheinbaum could be stronger on foreign relations than Lopez Obrador had been.

© Reuters. Zinacantan, June 2, 2024. REUTERS/Gabriela Sanabria

As he waited to vote at a polling place in the Florida district in the south of Mexico City, he said he felt better with the leftist Morena in power as part of the LGBT community.

“What we have seen with gender legislation, with marriage equality, for me it has to do with party,” Castillo said.





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