Mexico Elects First Female President: What Should We Expect?

Mexico has elected frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum as their first female president, following a campaign period scarred by criminal violence and the highest assassination rate of political candidates in the country’s history. She will take on a legacy of a militarized approach to drug cartels, violent crime, a migration crisis, and disputes with major trading partners, including the United States.

Here’s what you need to know.

In an election where the top two presidential candidates were both women, Mexico was all but guaranteed a female president. It was the biggest election in Mexico’s history, with every seat in Congress up for grabs, the presidency, and more than 19,000 state and local offices. The election was by far the most violent since 2018, with 37 political candidates assassinated, according to Reuters, and more than 300 incidents of violence or threats of kidnapping occurring.

Early results indicate a landslide victory, with Claudia Sheinbaum capturing 58.8 percent of the vote at the time of publication, according to results from two different early vote-counting systems that tally the vote. Mexico uses the “quick count,” which takes a predetermined, statistically representative sample of polling stations, and the preliminary electoral results program (PREP) that reports results in real-time from all polling stations as transmitted to predict a winner once the lead becomes statistically irreversible. The official counting will begin on June 5. In 2018, former president Andres Manual Lopez Obrador won the election with 53 percent of the popular vote and carried 31 of the country’s 32 states.

As Sheinbaum steps into her role, she will be confronted with a nation grappling with surging cartel violence, slow economic growth, widespread corruption, and a migration crisis. These pressing issues demand immediate attention and decisive action. Although Sheinbaum hails from the same dominating leftist party as Obrador, the Movimiento de Regeneracion Nacional (National Regeneration Movement, or Morena), the transition is not without controversy.

While widely popular, Obrador had his critics. Even before taking office in 2018, Obrador opted to rely heavily on Mexico’s military to take on the war with cartels and violent crime, declaring the various Mexican police services corrupt and untrustworthy. In addition to expanding the military’s role in public safety, Obrador also funneled roles in infrastructure, migration, and sea and airport management to the armed forces.

Sheinbaum has defended these policies throughout the years, and is likely to keep the Mexican military at the center of domestic security policies, cementing that there is no alternative to the military policing Mexico’s streets and perhaps further entrenching the cartel wars.  Sheinbaum has also committed to coordinating closely with the United States on cartel-driven issues of narco-trafficking, human trafficking, illegal arms flows, and money laundering, but has not indicated a clear policy change to combat the immense violence, forced disappearance, and extortion.

On the campaign trail, Sheinbaum worked to bring a message of economic calm to the middle class of Mexico. She promised to maintain the government aid established by Obrador, but also hinted at increased support for investors and entrepreneurs. Under Obrador, the minimum wage more than doubled. Sheinbaum also said she plans to keep raising wages for workers, as long as she continues to receive support from the business sector.

Sheinbaum is also expected to continue infrastructure spending and projects started by Obrador. Obrador poured funding into development, including a new airport in Oaxaca, a state-run airline, a tourist train called the Tren Maya, and the Mexican passenger rail project. According to Sheinbaum, more than 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) of railways would be built during her six-year term. The projects have supported job growth, especially in southern Mexico, but face complaints of inadequate construction, over-budget spending, and environmental destruction. In addition, the sheer cost of some of the projects may put pressure on Sheinbaum to enact less popular policies, such as increasing taxes, to keep the projects afloat.

In the midst of this historic election, President Joe Biden is weighing executive action on the border with Mexico. The White House is reportedly finalizing plans for a US-Mexico border clampdown that would end asylum requests and automatically deny entrance to any migrant once a daily threshold limit is exceeded. The New York Post reported that the daily limit to trigger a border “shut down” could be 4,000 border crossings per day over the course of a week. Sources close to the issue suggested that Biden may sign the executive order as soon as Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The unilateral move is almost certainly part of Biden’s election-year strategy on migration, attempting to appease voters who say he hasn’t done enough to secure the border.

Sheinbaum is likely to approach US-Mexico border issues from an international human rights perspective, aligning with Mexico’s national interests that include securing its own southern border against Central and South American migrants. In April, during a campaign rally in Tapachula, Sheinbaum said that she aims for the southern border city to be considered the “capital of Central America,” with an industrialization plan that also seeks a “more humane” migration strategy.

Tapachula has become a battleground for the immigration crisis facing the Americas, with tens of thousands of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, and China stranded there without legal papers to work in Mexico or funds to continue the journey north.

As 2026 approaches, the review period for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) looms, and the Mexican government may use this review to seek new trade and investment. It was only last year that Mexico surpassed China to become the US’ largest trading partner. Even that itself is not without controversy. A mixture of politics and convenience pushed Mexico into the top trading spot with the US, but not without help. The boom around “nearshoring,” or, the movement of companies closer to their market, assisted. Asian companies–many of them driven by the substantial increase in tariffs on Chinese imports to the US–relocated their manufacturing, much of it automotive, into Mexico, where they reap the trade benefits of the USMCA.

Sheinbaum has indicated hopes to take advantage of nearshoring, proposing a development plan to attract companies seeking to relocate their supply chains closer to their markets and promoting development in the tourism, technological innovation, and renewable energy sectors.

Sheinbaum’s reputation as president is likely to be established early. The former mayor of Mexico City, she is no stranger to politics and adversity, but governing the entire nation will almost certainly be more difficult than winning the election. How she navigates her new role on the world stage—carving an independent path or following the same playbook as Obrador—will be evident soon. Either way, she is positioned to have an outsized influence on the US political landscape as it also heads toward an election at a time when immigration, drug trafficking, and trade are all top issues for Americans.

Ellen Anevicius
Ellen Anevicius
Ellen is the Editorial Operations Chief for Atlas News.

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