HomeLearning CenterWomen win Mexican primaries; one is likely to be first female president

Women win Mexican primaries; one is likely to be first female president

Originally published by Mary Beth Sheridan and David Agren for The Washington Post

Half of Mexico’s Congress is female. The cabinet is gender-balanced. And now, women have won the primaries of the two leading political blocs — making it likely that this traditionally macho nation will elect its first female president, ahead of the United States.

Claudia Sheinbaum, 61, who until recently served as Mexico City’s mayor, defeated five men to secure the nomination of the governing party, MORENA, its officials announced Wednesday. If the leftist candidate triumphs in the election next June, she also will set another precedent, as Mexico’s first Jewish head of state.

Her victory came days after an opposition coalition, the Broad Front for Mexico, nominated Xóchitl Gálvez, 60, a business executive and senator of Indigenous origin.

“This is a feminist’s dream,” said Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s rights activist in the central city of Querétaro. The 2024 race, she said, “is going to signify a turn in the way that we see women in politics.”

The matchup underscores how dramatically women have moved into political leadership in the past few years. A woman is chief justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court. Women lead both houses of Congress. Women have made up 50 percent of the legislature since 2021, when Mexico became the largest nation to achieve gender parity.

It’s not quite Barbie Land — but the progress is remarkable in a country where women couldn’t even vote until 1953.

And Mexico’s female politicians are shattering glass ceilings at a faster pace than their colleagues across the border. The United States has yet to elect a female president. Women hold 28 percent of seats in Congress — a U.S. record, but a dismal showing compared to much of the world.

How dismal?

Mexico ranks fourth in the world in female participation in national legislatures, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The United States ranks 71st — just below Iraq.

Mexico’s rapid progress on gender equality is rooted in its transition from an authoritarian state to a multiparty democracy. After decades of domination by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, politicians rewrote laws in the 1990s to make elections more fair — and women’s rights activists seized the moment.

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