Mexicans vote in historic polls as 2 women vie to lead country

MEXICO CITY: Mexicans voted Sunday in a presidential election dominated by two women – a historic first in a country with a history of gender-based violence and discrimination.
Governing party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum, a former Mexico City mayor and a climate scientist by training, had a 17 percentage point lead over her main rival Xochitl Galvez, a tech entrepreneur on a ticket that includes a collection of opposition parties, on the eve of the vote.The only man running, centrist Jorge Alvarez Maynez, was trailing far behind as a particularly violent campaign season marked by a string of candidate murders drew to an end. It means that, barring a huge surprise, a woman is almost certain to break the highest political glass ceiling in Mexico, where around 10 women or girls are murdered every day.
The contest showcases the immense strides in Mexico’s politics made in recent years by women, who weren’t even allowed to vote in the country until 1953. Both the top candidates come with considerable experience: Galvez was a senator and Sheinbaum governed the capital, one of the largest cities in the hemisphere.
Yet much of race has focused on a figure who isn’t on the ballot, but looms large: the powerful current prez, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. While broadly popular, Lopez Obrador has been a polarising figure, eliciting adulation from die-hard fans and vitriol from critics. His administration doubled the minimum wage and used cash transfer programs to help bring millions out of poverty, while empowering military and pursuing steps that many warned would weaken democratic institutions.
His dominance upended establishment politics, prompting three parties, from the right, centre and left, to form an uneasy union that is now backing Galvez. Sheinbaum has appealed to voters mainly by promising to continue his legacy. Galvez has cast herself as an alternative for those unhappy with Lopez Obrador’s leadership, vowing to reverse many of his policies.
Whoever wins will face daunting challenges: Persistent cartel violence, along with Mexico’s middling economic performance, are the main issues. Nearly 100 million people are registered to vote. Voters will also elect governors in nine of the country’s 32 states, and choose candidates for both houses of Congress, thousands of mayorships and other local posts, in the biggest polls the nation has seen.
(With inputs from NYT, AFP, AP)


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