University of Colorado at Boulder

05/31/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2024 11:42

In historic first, Mexico is poised to elect female president

However, CU Boulder scholar Lorraine Bayard de Volo notes that electing a female president may not guarantee a more feminist mode of governing

While Americans follow a likely rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election, it's also an exciting and historic election year in the country's southern neighbor.

On June 2, Mexico's election day, and for the first time in the nation's history, a woman will almost certainly win the presidential election.

The election is significant not only for the more than 127 million people living in Mexico, but for the Mexican diaspora and those of Mexican heritage throughout the world, including in Colorado's Front Range.

Lorraine Bayard de Volo, a CU Boulder political scientist and professor of women and gender studies, notes that electing a female president may not guarantee a feminist mode of governing in Mexico.

Lorraine Bayard de Volo, a political scientist and University of Colorado Boulder professor of women and gender studies, has been a scholar of Latin American politics-focusing on gender as it interacts with and informs war, revolution, political violence and social movements-since her undergraduate studies. She has closely followed Mexico's presidential election, noting that even though Mexico trails several of its Latin American counterparts in electing a female president, the event still is historic for a country that has historically identified with macho culture.

Bayard de Volo recently spoke with Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine about what this presidential election could mean for Mexico and for those around the world watching.

Question: How did you become interested in this area of study?

Bayard De Volo: As an undergraduate in the '80s, studying political science and economics, I was very interested in the various ways in which the U.S. was funding the wars taking place in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

In graduate school, I became increasingly interested in the growing field of gender studies. As a political science PhD student specializing in gender studies, I was able to combine my interests. While studying Latin American politics, particularly war, revolutions and social movements, I was hearing about how women were getting involved, yet there was very little understanding of how gender informed political violence and social mobilization.

I became very intrigued with trying to fill the gap in the research, and I've been fascinated by this field of study ever since.

Question: Can you give a quick overview of the upcoming Mexican presidential election?

Bayard De Volo: The Mexican president is in office for a six-year term and cannot run for reelection. Of the three candidates running to take the place of current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly known as AMLO) when his term ends on Oct. 1, the two leading contenders are Claudia Scheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez.

Scheinbaum represents the Morena coalition, which is a newer party, but also the same party as AMLO, who won in a landslide and still has very high approval ratings. She's leading in the polls right now, at least in part due to AMLO's popularity. Although she identifies as a feminist, if she were to win, she'd inherit her predecessor's antagonism toward Mexico's growing women's movement. Scheinbaum's experience includes working in the AMLO administration and having served as the Head of Government of Mexico City.

Xóchitl Gálvez represents the Frente Amplio, the broad front, a coalition party that includes three formerly very powerful parties (and formerly mutually antagonistic parties). She was a senator until her nomination as a presidential candidate and has organized for indigenous rights and also served as mayor in a borough of Mexico City.

Interestingly, it's not only their gender identities but also their ethnicities that represent a departure from the norm. Scheinbaum is of Jewish descent while Gálvez has indigenous roots.

People at an opposition rally in the Zocalo, Mexico City's main square, May 19 to encourage voting in Sunday's presidential election. The sign reads, "We are all the same Mexico." (Photo: Ginnette Riquelme/AP)

No matter who wins this election, AMLO will continue to have a lot of influence due to his overwhelming popularity. There are concerns that his political capital could be used to pressure his successor.

Question: To what extent has the rise of Mexico's women's movement contributed to the likely election of its first female president?

Bayard De Volo: It's hard to say. The women's movement is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Many Latin American countries-including Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica-have already elected female presidents, so Mexico is actually behind the curve in that regard.

Meanwhile, there's been a vibrant, burgeoning women's movement in Mexico in recent years, which has focused its efforts on reproductive rights and femicide. While efforts were underway to overturn Roe v. Wade here in the United States through two different Supreme Court decisions, Mexico decriminalized abortion within certain parameters.

Although the government has done little to address the high rates of femicide, and despite being a nation known for its macho culture, Mexico's government has adopted gender quotas with the goal of achieving gender parity in politics. Right now, 50% of Mexico's lower house is female, women are governors in about a quarter of Mexico's states and there are some states where women outnumber men in elected office.

The rising women's movement might be reflective of increasing acceptance of gender parity, but I'm not sure it's fair to say it's had a huge influence on the election. Women in Mexico take many different political positions. There's no clear agreement on what constitutes 'women's interests,' and the election of a female president wouldn't necessarily guarantee a more feminist mode of governing.

Question: What can the United States learn from Mexico?

Bayard De Volo: That's a hard question because we are such different countries with different electoral systems. It would be very difficult to implement a gender quota in the U.S. because we don't have proportional representation. Trying to do something like that here would be controversial, to say the least. That said, it is interesting that a nation that has been identified as quintessentially macho is prepared to elect a woman.

Top image: left, Claudia Scheinbaum (photo: Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto/Getty Images) and right, Xóchitl Gálvez (photo: from Gálvez's Facebook)

Did you enjoy this article? Subcribe to our newsletter. Passionate about women and gender studies? Show your support.