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Mexico's opposition presidential candidate Xochitl Gálvez outside a polling station in Mexico City on June 2. (Luis Cortes/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

Mexicans expected to choose first woman president

June 2, 2024

By Tara John and Michelle Velez, CNN

(CNN) — Mexicans headed to the polls on Sunday to vote in a historic election expected to return the country’s first woman president.

The two leading presidential candidates are women: Claudia Sheinbaum from the leftist Morena party and Xochitl Gálvez, from the conservative PAN party, who is representing a coalition of opposition parties.

The third candidate is Jorge Álvarez Máynez, the youngest in the race, who is representing the center-left Citizens’ Movement.

Sunday’s poll is the largest election in the country’s history. More than 98 million voters are registered to cast a ballot in Mexico, and 1.4 million Mexicans are eligible to vote abroad. More than 20,000 positions are set to be filled with an estimated 70,000 candidates vying to become senators, mayors and governors.

Outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is Sheinbaum’s mentor, greeted supporters as he voted. As Sheinbaum made her way to cast her ballot, she called for Mexicans to vote, telling reporters: “This is a historic day, I am feeling very happy.”

Gálvez told reporters on Sunday that she was not nervous and was happy about the large voter turnout. She added that she was expecting it to be a long day and a very close call.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time and will close at 6 p.m., according to Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE).

However, on Sunday, some voting stations in parts of the country opened with delays. Long lines were seen in Mexico City, Yucatán, Tuxtla, Cuauhtémoc, and voting centers abroad.

One exasperated woman in Mexico City, who had been waiting for 40 minutes for her polling station to open, said she would not be able to vote before the polls closed at 6 p.m. as she had to go to work. “If they are giving a time frame, they should respect that,” she told CNN.

In Madrid, Spain, expatriate Mexicans told CNN they waited more than eight hours to cast their ballots. One Mexican voter said she had been in line for 11 hours. Authorities are telling them INE is to blame. Voter Lucia Rodriguez said, “I don’t think they (the Mexican Embassy) have the resources to hold this election here.”

Polls were meant to open at 8 a.m. local time in Madrid, but INE posted on social media on Sunday afternoon saying voters waiting in line at embassies in Madrid and Paris could now cast their ballots. They added that the polls will close once 1,500 votes have been cast or everyone who registered votes. CNN has contacted the Mexican Embassy in Madrid for comment.

Security concerns on the ballot

Whoever is elected will face several challenges, including security, organized crime, energy, immigration, and strengthening the US-Mexico relationship.

Outside polling stations, voters told CNN that public security was one of their main concerns. Violence has loomed large in this election, the bloodiest in Mexico’s history. Dozens of political candidates and applicants have been killed by gangs trying to influence those coming into power.

A minute of silence was held on Sunday by the advisers of the INE in memory of the people who have been murdered during this electoral period.

And while the murder rate fell in Mexico between 2019 and 2022, in absolute numbers the country is still reeling from historically high levels of homicides of around 30,000 each year, experts say.

Both Sheinbaum and Gálvez have largely remained coy about their proposals regarding security. Neither has repudiated a nearly two-decades-long approach of relying on the armed forces to tackle organized crime.

The central challenge for the next president will be convincing voters that she can end the culture of impunity in Mexico, where around 95% of all crimes nationwide went unsolved in 2022, according to the think tank Mexico Evalua.

US officials are closely monitoring the presidential election as it comes at a critical time for the Biden administration. A record number of migrants at the US-Mexico border has been seized upon by Republicans who claim it as proof of the Biden administration’s impotence, pushing immigration control to a top election issue.

In recent months, the US has relied heavily on Mexico to step up immigration enforcement and help stem the flow of migration to the US’ southern border. The election in Mexico has raised uncertainty in the minds of some Biden officials about what, if anything, will change with a key partner when it comes to border cooperation.

“Whether we’re talking about elections in Mexico or here in the US, it always provokes a level of uncertainty with everyone, generally, but especially in the migrant population,” a Homeland Security official previously told CNN.

CNN’s Gustavo Valdés, Karol Suarez, Priscilla Alvarez and Esha Mitra contributed to this report.

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