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Five reasons why Sheinbaum won in Mexico

The candidate for the ruling Morena party won among voters of all genders, ages, professions and incomes. She only lost among employers and those with postgraduate studies, who represent less than 17% of Mexican voters

Claudia Sheinbaum during her closing rally, on May 28, 2024.
Claudia Sheinbaum during her closing rally, on May 28, 2024.NAYELI CRUZ
Viri Ríos

Claudia Sheinbaum has achieved the greatest electoral victory in the history of Mexico’s young democracy. Before she won the presidential elections on June 2, no candidate had ever democratically defeated an opponent by a margin of 32 points. She obtained 35 million votes, 59% of the total, becoming the first female president in Mexican history. Sheinbaum also won among voters of every gender, age, profession and level of income, with the exception of employers or citizens with graduate studies, who represent less than 17% of voters.

The question is, how did Sheinbaum achieve this landslide victory? We can answer this with five key points:

1. Improvements in the living standards of workers

The working class reaffirmed its support for the ruling Morena party. Under the tenure of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who leaves office on September 30, the party implemented the most successful labor agenda on record. After doubling the minimum wage, regulating the practice of outsourcing employment, and dismantling thousands of “ghost” unions, per capita labor income outpaced inflation by 24%. During the Calderón and Peña Nieto administrations — 2006-2012 and 2012-2018 respectively — it had fallen by 9%.

The wage increases helped lower-income families the most. Luis F. Munguía, an economist and president of the National Minimum Wage Commission, has pointed out that, among the poorest 10% of the working population, wages increased by 99% over the past six years. Under Peña Nieto, wages only increased by 8%.

2. Poverty reduction

During this six-year period — from 2018 until 2024 — 5.1 million Mexicans escaped poverty, representing the largest reduction in 16 years. This decrease is explained, to a large extent, by the improvements in salaries. The data is relevant, because during the previous 10 years — from 2008 until 2018 — poverty levels remained practically unchanged. 73% of the decrease in poverty that occurred in this six-year term is explained by the improvement in salaries.

Social transfer programs increased their coverage, going from covering 27% of Mexican households to 39%. Meanwhile, the total amount of funds that were transferred to disadvantaged families doubled between 2018 and 2022, the last year for which data is available. Subsidies have been effective in reducing poverty. And the social programs of this six-year term helped 52% more people escape poverty than during the Peña Nieto administration.

3. Failure of the opposition coalition

The merger of the major opposition parties into a united front diluted their agendas and caused internal conflicts. It was very difficult for party members to absorb, as it reduced the number of available elected positions. In certain states, supporters of the National Action Party (PAN) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) are historical enemies, meaning that the merger caused confusion.

The PAN-PRI-PRD alliance has been very ineffective. Between 2018 and 2023, across all the states in which the coalition competed in, it lost 83% of the time. This is due at least in part to the bad reputation of the PRI, a party that’s considered to be the most corrupt in Mexico, having governed the country uninterruptedly from 1929 until 2000 and again from 2012 until 2018. This affected the decision of undecided voters in the 2024 presidential election.

To this, we must add that the coalition’s main argument, which was its opposition to López Obrador, wasn’t shared by the majority of Mexican voters. The idea they pushed, that Mexican democracy is at risk and that the country is heading towards a dictatorship, isn’t shared by the majority, either. According to a survey by El Financiero, a Mexican national daily newspaper, even among those who identify as progressive, 32% reported that they would vote for Morena in the lead-up to the June 2 elections.

4. A sophisticated campaign strategy

Morena and its allies organized a sophisticated electoral strategy that increased its vote share in both the presidential and legislative elections. When it comes to Congress, the percentage of votes that a party wins doesn’t directly translate into obtaining the same number of representatives. Above all, when coalitions are formed, the electoral rules indicate that no individual party can have more than 60% of the seats in the legislature. This makes alliances with small parties, such as the Labor Party (PT) or the Green Party (PV), mandatory if you want to obtain a clear majority.

In this recent election, Morena’s coalition-building was effective. If the National Electoral Institute’s calculations are correct, despite the fact that the Morena-PT-PV coalition has only obtained 58% of the votes, they will be able to obtain up to 76% of the seats in Congress.

5. Improvement of public spaces

A little-discussed aspect of Morena’s public policies is the emphasis placed on public spaces. The Secretariat for Agrarian, Land and Urban Development developed a plan to improve public spaces that benefited millions of Mexicans, by converting vacant land into parks, or improving the upkeep of previously neglected areas.

The way in which access to quality public spaces improves people’s lives shouldn’t be minimized. Throughout the six-year period, thousands of public works were carried out, focusing above all on marginalized neighborhoods.

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