MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s broad opposition coalition announced Thursday it has chosen Senator Xóchitl Gálvez as its candidate in the June 2, 2024 presidential elections.
The de-facto nomination — which will be formalized later when candidates are registered — suggests that Mexico’s next president will likely be a woman, as former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum leads most polls on the primary race for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party.
Mexico has never had a woman president, though there have been several female candidates in the past. The opposition coalition — known as the Broad Front for Mexico — and Morena are by far the biggest political forces in Mexico.
Gálvez was once a street-food salesgirl who became a tech entrepreneur and senator. While she caucuses with the conservative National Action Party in the Senate, she is not a member of the party and instead has the kind of folksy, plain-spoken style popularized by López Obrador.
López Obrador will leave office on Sept. 30 2024, and while he retains high approval ratings, he cannot run for re-election.
While she has gained ground, Gálvez remains a long shot against López Obrador’s Morena party, which holds Congress and governs 22 of Mexico’s 32 states.
Arturo Sánchez Gutiérrez, a member of the coalition’s selection committee, said Gálvez was the winner of the polls that were part of the process to determine the nomination.
“Today we know that the Broad Front for Mexico coalition will be led by Senator Xóchitl Gálvez Ruiz,” said Sánchez Gutiérrez. Gálvez seldom uses her second last name.
The coalition had planned to hold a public vote on the nomination Sunday, but cancelled it after the only other remaining contender — also a woman — essentially dropped out of the race after Gálvez swept most polls.
Gálvez will face one of six contenders who are competing for the nomination of López Obrador’s Morena party. Morena will decide the nomination based on a series of opinion polls, and the winner is expected to be announced on Sept. 6.
Sheinbaum is the favorite in Morena’s primary race, but former Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is also in the running.
Gálvez faces obstacles, like López Obrador’s popularity and his avowed willingness to break a long tradition in Mexican politics and actively use his presidency to campaign against her.
López Obrador has used tax information to accuse Gálvez of insider dealing in government contracts, something she denies, noting the López Obrador’s own administration has contracted services from her companies.
Courts and electoral authorities have warned López Obrador against using government air time and resources to attack Gálvez.
But Gálvez also faces challenges in her own coalition, which is a mishmash of conservative, centrist and progressive forces united only by their opposition to López Obrador.
The coalition is made up of the conservative National Action Party, the small progressive Democratic Revolution Party, and the old-guard Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, that held Mexico’s presidency without interruption between 1929 and 2000.
As a girl, Gálvez, 60, helped her family by selling tamales on the street. She grew up poor in the central state of Hidalgo, and her father was an Indigenous Otomi schoolteacher. She learned to speak his native ñähñu language as a child, and holds her Indigenous roots close. She favors wearing the loose embroidered indigenous blouse known as a huipil.
A free-spirited political independent who often travels the sprawling capital on a bicycle, Gálvez is known for cracking occasional off-color jokes. She entered the Senate chamber in December dressed up as a dinosaur, an allusion to party leaders known for their archaic, unmovable practices.
Next year’s election is López Obrador’s chance to show if he has built a political movement that can outlast his charismatic leadership. Whoever his successor is, they will have to tackle persistently high levels of violence, heavily armed drug cartels and migration across the nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States.