Music rings in the ears of feminists and advocates of feminist (foreign) policy: In Mexico, two women are fighting for the office of president. For the first time in history, the top of the “traditional macho nation” and Germany’s most important trading partner in Latin America could become female. Long before the actual election, activists are already celebrating the candidacies as a “feminist dream.”

The fact that two women are running for the otherwise male presidential office is already being seen as a feminist triumph in Mexico – and another highlight of emancipation. Since 2018, a statutory women’s quota has ensured that men and women are equally represented in parliament. In an international comparison, the country ranks well in fifth place when it comes to the proportion of women in Congress. (Germany is in 45th place.) And this year, for the first time, a woman heads the Supreme Court in Mexico.

So now there are two candidates for the presidential election – and probably one winner.

Last Sunday, the opposition party Frente Amplio announced that it was sending 60-year-old former computer engineer Xóchitl Gálvez into the race for president. She should run for the conservative Broad Front coalition.

Her challenger is Claudia Sheinbaum, 61 years old, physicist and former mayor of Mexico City. She prevailed against five competitors in a turbulent selection process.

Sheinbaum is considered an ally and protégé of incumbent President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In 2000, as the then mayor of the capital, he appointed her as the metropolis’s environment minister. Sheinbaum served as Obrador’s spokeswoman during his failed presidential bid in 2006. In 2018 he rose to the top political position in the country – and Sheinbaum inherited him in Mexico City.

The left-wing nationalist president has enjoyed the trust of Mexicans for years; his approval rating is over 60 percent; His governing coalition, led by the Morena party, governs 23 of 32 states. After six years in office, Obrador is no longer allowed to run. Now the game of recent years is repeating itself: Obrador is stepping down, Sheinbaum is following him. His popularity ratings and her connection to Obrador could be her ticket to the presidency. She sees herself as an icon among the population: “The girls see me as a role model,” she recently told the magazine “Gatopardo.”

When she announced her candidacy, Sheinbaum appeared combative – and a little confident of victory. “Today democracy won. Today the Mexican people decided.”

And: “Being the first female president would be historic for our country.”

However, this also applies to her challenger Xóchitl Gálvez. In 2018 she was elected senator. After her scholarship at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the engineer founded a company that designs communication and energy networks for office buildings. In 2000, after Vincente Fox’s election victory, Gálvez was appointed head of the Presidential Office for Indigenous Peoples. Eighteen years later, she was finally elected senator representing the conservative National Action Party. Over the past few months, she has become the opposition coalition’s candidate.

Gálvez portrays herself as a fighter who continues her studies despite being abused by her father and, at the age of 17, defends herself against a rapist with a soldering iron.

The incumbent president apparently thinks little of Gálvez and even sees her as a possible danger to his own offspring. He recently accused her of being a puppet of powerful men. Gálvez then accused him of sexism. President Obrador’s hostility could not affect her politically. On the contrary, they increased their public presence.

And when asked about Mexico’s fight against armed criminal gangs in an interview with the news program “Entre Todos,” she said: “You need ovaries. Not just eggs.”

In their campaigns, both candidates repeatedly emphasize the weak points of their respective opponents. Both have an engineering diploma. Neither is explicitly feminist, but both support the decriminalization of abortion. In this way, Gálvez even distances herself from her strictly conservative party. Both candidates are socially progressive and want to maintain the anti-poverty programs that are popular with the population. How they will differentiate themselves from each other in the election campaign remains to be seen.

And yet Sheinbaum could benefit from her political foster father. And he also from her. Because with Sheinbaum in office, Obrador could continue to exert his political influence in Mexico for some time. Although he claimed the opposite in March: “I will withdraw completely. I am not a chief and I do not feel irreplaceable either. I am not a strong man; I am not a messiah.”

But in a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, analysts come to a different conclusion. If Sheinbaum wins, “there could be changes in certain policy areas, although the basic principles of his agenda will remain intact,” write the scientists at the research institute in Washington. And if Gálvez wins, Obrador “will not quietly fade into the background.” His political legacy could prevent the opposition from reversing certain decisions, such as austerity measures.

And a female president cannot feminize traditionally male-dominated politics overnight. “We have female candidates, but the parties, resources and agendas continue to be controlled by men,” Bárbara González, a political analyst in the city of Monterrey, told The Washington Post. Activists already fear that the daily lives of Mexican women will not improve significantly even with a female president.

“They are not magical unicorns, they do not have magic wands. They will not eliminate centuries of discrimination against women overnight,” Jennifer Piscopo, professor of gender and politics at the University of London, told the newspaper.

It is uncertain which candidate will win, even if a trend is currently emerging. But it still takes a while until the vote on June 2, 2024. A lot seems possible. The only thing that is clear in Mexico at the moment is: “It’s the time of women.”

Quellen: “Washington Post”, “New York Times”, “The Guardian”, Centre for Strategic