- In just under five months on 2 June 2024, Mexico will elect its next president and all 628 members of Congress
- The market’s focus over the next few months will be on identifying the differences in the policy platforms of two candidates from the center-left
- Ultimately, we expect governability in Mexico to weaken, regardless of who wins the 2024 election
Unlike recent elections in Latin America where there were clear distinctions between candidates, Mexico’s election seems to pit one center-leftist against another.
The focus for voters and the market over the next several months will be on discerning the differences between the two leading candidates’ policy platforms. While this is clearly important, other countries in the region have demonstrated recently that the individual who wins the presidency is not necessarily a game-changer from a policymaking point of view. We believe that regardless of who wins the election, Mexico is bound for a similar fate as other countries in the region, where governability has weakened and policy proposals have stagnated, even after seemingly dramatic presidential election outcomes over the past two years.
Looking back at elections in the region since 2021, there are several themes that have emerged -polarisation (i.e., narrow victories, with a couple of exceptions), weak governability (i.e., absence of any party holding a majority in the legislative branch), and voters’ apparent and unfulfilled desire for change. We have witnessed this desire for change in the election outcomes of Peru, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina. Meanwhile, Ecuador is perhaps the best outlying example where voters appeared to opt for continuity, not just once (with Guillermo Lasso’s election) but twice by recently electing Daniel Noboa1. This is an illusion and more indicative of a population that rejects correismo, the movement or policies associated with an Ecuadorian former president Rafael Correa2, than one that desires continuity. As with Ecuador, Argentina’s recent election appeared to be a rejection of a longstanding political movement, kirchnerismo3, rather than a vote for a particular policy platform.
The apparent desire for change throughout Latin America has not actually resulted in major policy changes. In Peru, Pedro Castillo was impeached after less than a year and a half in office and his replacement, Dina Boluarte, now seems to represent the establishment; in Chile, the constitutional re-write process lasted over three years and ended in both drafts being rejected by the population; in Colombia, Gustavo Petro’s coalition in Congress has fallen apart, steadily weakening his ambitious reform agenda; in Ecuador, Lasso’s governability was so weak that he didn’t finish his term.
How can we apply all these lessons to Mexico’s upcoming elections in June 2024? Mexico is one of the very few Latin American countries where the ruling party’s coalition has benefited from a majority in Congress over the past several years, though that majority shrank meaningfully in the 2021 mid-term elections. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as “AMLO,” has an approval rating that remains high at 68%, but it is unclear to what extent his charisma will extend into the June 2024 elections since he will not be a candidate. While the ruling Morena party’s candidate, Claudia Scheinbaum, is currently favored to win the presidency, it seems that her coalition’s position in Congress is likely to shrink further, especially if opposition parties gain momentum ahead of elections, as seems likely. This would leave Scheinbaum with relatively weaker governability than AMLO enjoyed.
But what if Xochitl Gálvez, the main opposition candidate, wins the presidency? She is a member of the PAN party, one of three parties in the opposition’s Fuerza y Corazón por México coalition. It is difficult to envision her coalition securing a majority in Congress, especially now that we know that Movimiento Ciudadano (MC) will run its own candidate rather than joining the coalition. In short, our sense is that regardless of who wins the 2024 presidential race in Mexico, Congress will become more fragmented, and the relatively strong governability experienced under the AMLO administration is likely to weaken and social tensions are likely to rise, making Mexico look – from a political and social perspective – a lot more like other countries in the region.