Is AMLO’s influence looming over presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum?

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Mexico kicked off its official presidential campaign season Friday, with leading candidates taking center stage as popular outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s overwhelming influence hangs over the country’s future.

Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is the comfortable frontrunner in the June 2 election: She held a 17-point lead over top opposition candidate Xochitl Galvez in February, according to a new poll from El Financiero released as the campaign began.

But the shadow of Lopez Obrador will loom over his protege during the race, and likely throughout her presidency if she wins: One of the biggest open questions is just how much the leader who has come to dominate Mexico will continue to shape its politics after he leaves office.

AMLO, famous for hours-long morning news conferences and flying coach to burnish his everyman image, often boasts that he is one of the world’s most popular leaders but is limited by law to a single six-year term. His Morena party handed Sheinbaum the task of maintaining and building on the success of the political movement he built: Under AMLO, it has all but vanquished Mexico’s old establishment, which has coalesced behind Galvez.

Now Morena wants to amass even more power: Beyond the presidential race, it is aiming to win enough of the 500 lower house seats and 128 Senate spots up for grabs to hold two-thirds majorities that would potentially allow AMLO’s successor to enact major constitutional changes — including overhauls of the judiciary and electoral system — that he has struggled to steer past the opposition.

That has infused some energy into the race. With analysts seeing such majorities as unlikely, AMLO in February unveiled a swath of reform proposals meant to animate his base. One calls for the election of Supreme Court justices, a shot at another institution that has thwarted his goals.

Supporters of Galvez — who is known for stunts like wearing a dinosaur costume to the Senate to mock some of the president’s proposals — staged a massive demonstration in mid-February, flooding Mexico City’s central square in a “march for democracy” that accused AMLO’s government of unfairly influencing the election.

Galvez focused heavily on the country’s ongoing public security crisis in an overnight speech to launch her official campaign, arguing that Mexicans should be free from fear of narco gangs and violence.

“There is a demand that unites all Mexicans: we want to live without fear,” she said, promising to bolster police and the national guard while accusing Morena of ignoring high rates of homicides and disappearances. “Not doubt that we are going to return peace to this country.”

Galvez has eaten into Sheinbaum’s advantage since the start of 2024, gaining 6 points in El Financiero’s late-January survey. The new poll, however, showed the race stagnating in February, with Sheinbaum holding 50% of voter intentions compared to 33% for Galvez. That suggests the AMLO ally is set to win the race to become Mexico’s first female president barring a seismic shift between now and the election.

AMLO’s Shelter

AMLO enjoys the approval of a majority of Mexicans, polls show, in large part because his folksy demeanor and social policies like minimum wage and pension increases have appealed to a working-class base that has long felt betrayed by the country’s traditional political elite.

Sheinbaum, to little surprise, largely followed his playbook throughout the pre-campaign period, promising to keep government spending limited while pushing for further improvements to welfare programs.

“It would be naive to think that Sheinbaum is not going to continue under AMLO’s shelter,” said Juan Carlos Villarreal, a political science professor at the Autonomous University of Mexico State. “His popularity is because he is a strong leader who delivered results.”

Still, Sheinbaum has staked out her own positions in key areas like Mexico’s energy sector, said Matias Gomez Leautaud, Mexico analyst for Eurasia Group.

A scientist with a Ph.D. in energy engineering, she piloted a series of renewable and electrified transport projects in Mexico City. That raised questions about whether she would open the door for increased private financing despite her support for AMLO’s messaging about the importance of the state and its companies in the energy sector.

Sheinbaum has been vague about policy plans, and it remains unclear whether she would pursue AMLO’s reform efforts or follow the approach that turned the state into a central player in Mexican business and the economy.

Source: El Financiero

Monterrey Daily Post