Contenders are warming up for the race to succeed Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum in the running to become the country’s first woman head of state.
The presidential election is not until July 2024, and officially the campaign has not yet started.
But a war of “likes” is already underway on social media between Sheinbaum — a scientist by training and close ally of Lopez Obrador — and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Both hope to be the presidential candidate of the ruling Morena party, which holds its annual congress this weekend.
“A woman can be an astronaut, a lawyer, a policewoman, deputy governor, and president of the republic,” Sheinbaum said during a recent trip outside the capital to greet supporters.
Party members will decide the Morena candidate in 2023, and opinion polls suggest their pick will be the favourite to govern for six more years.
In the meantime, anyone can ask Ebrard, 62, questions on WhatsApp after he published a contact number, or watch TikTok videos in which he declares himself a fan of K-pop superstars BTS.
People can also watch Sheinbaum, 60, on TikTok playing with a yo-yo or confessing with a laugh to having been the talker of the school classroom, in contrast to her serious adult image.
An opinion poll published in late August by the firm Enkoll found that 35 percent of respondents would favor Sheinbaum to be Morena’s presidential candidate, against 26 percent for Ebrard.
And 82 percent said they would vote for a woman president, which would mark a sea change for a country with a longstanding culture of machismo.
But another survey, released September 6 by Poligrama, showed Sheinbaum and Ebrard almost neck and neck.
– A Lopez Obrador ‘stalwart’ –
While Lopez Obrador has said that he will back whoever wins, he often shows support for Sheinbaum, whom he describes as “incorruptible” and a person of “convictions.”
Ebrard, himself a former mayor of Mexico City, “knows how to govern and is efficient,” but is not as close to Lopez Obrador as the president’s “stalwart” confidante Sheinbaum, said analyst Pablo Majluf.
A weak opposition means the big winner of the early campaigning is Lopez Obrador — with an approval rating of more than 60 per cent — since only his candidates are in the race so far, said political analyst Carlos Bravo Regidor.
Sheinbaum, who is of Lithuanian and Bulgarian descent, “feels very motivated to continue (Lopez Obrador’s reform agenda) and be the first woman president in the history of Mexico,” a source close to her told AFP.
Ebrard, who has French roots, is trying to raise his profile with domestic trips in addition to his international agenda, which includes attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday.
In videos shared on social networks, Mexico’s top diplomat is seen harvesting agave in a tequila plantation and performing traditional dances in Bolivia.
It is not Ebrard’s first shot at the presidency.
He was defeated by Lopez Obrador in the internal Morena vote to be the party’s candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.
The Mexican constitution limits presidents to a single six-year term and the incumbent has promised not to run again.
Some analysts believe Lopez Obrador will seek to assert his influence beyond 2024 to safeguard his reform agenda.
He will be better positioned to wield power from the sidelines “if he is followed by a weak president or a president who needs support,” Bravo Regidor said.