Rounding up prospects and risks ahead of Mexico's 2024 elections

  • Freddy Nevison-Andrews

On Thursday 23 May, Canning House held the final event in its Mexico 2024 Seminar Series at the Royal Institution in London. For the fifth week running, a panel of thought-leaders gathered to discuss critical issues ahead of Mexico’s election.

Rounding up prospects and risks ahead of Mexico's 2024 elections

On Thursday 23 May, Canning House held the final event in its Mexico 2024 Seminar Series at the Royal Institution in London. For the fifth week running, a panel of thought-leaders gathered to discuss critical issues ahead of Mexico’s election.

Following its previous deep-dive webinar discussion on Opinion, Economy, Security and Politics (catch up here), the Series concluded with a wide-ranging round-up conversation covering all those subjects and more, as Mexico’s pre-election atmosphere heats up with just over a week to go until polling day on Sunday 2 June.

Jeremy Browne, CEO of Canning House, opened proceedings with brief words of introduction, setting the stage for the dynamic discussion to come.

First to present was Michael Stott, Latin America Editor at the Financial Times, tasked with providing a broad geopolitical and economic overview, including the most prominent challenges and prospects facing Mexico’s next government.

Michael described Mexico as “standing before an extraordinary opportunity” – nearshoring. Mexico benefits greatly from its privileged access to the United States market, unique in Latin America due to both proximity and the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement. It additionally boasts Latin America’s most established manufacturing sector. Nevertheless, Michael questioned whether, as yet, the country has made best use of these advantages; though expansion and excitement continues around nearshoring, he saw further untapped potential in what he characterised as a “once in a generation” opportunity.

Various challenges and questions also face Mexico’s next administration. In his assessment, Michael included amongst these: low GDP growth, including per capita; organised crime and its detrimental effects on life and business; militarisation of civil institutions, including airports and customs authorities; the deteriorating finances and production of Pemex, Mexico’s state petroleum company; and the upcoming review of the USMCA agreement due in 2026, with uncertainty still high on the makeup of the US government, with elections due there in November.

Next to speak was Valeria Moy, General Director of the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO). Providing an economic outlook for Mexico, Valeria contrasted Mexico’s slow GDP growth, highlighting in particular a slow cumulative GDP growth under the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly known as AMLO), with remarkably high levels of investment and consumption. Mexican incomes, her statistics showed, have grown, leading Mexicans to consume “as if there were not tomorrow,” generating greater feelings of satisfaction. She stressed that investment has not primarily arisen from foreign direct investment in nearshoring, as might be expected, but rather by private Mexican investment in anticipation of a wave of expansion in the sector.

Turning to headwinds and risks, Valeria cited a variety of possible challenges. Several outlets’ Mexican GDP growth forecasts for 2024 have shrunk, in the face of factors including public insecurity, institutional and rule of law deterioration, the uncertainty of the coming US election, Pemex’s stagnancy, and perceptions of corruption.

Third on the agenda was Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, a Professor at the Tecnológico de Monterrey’s School of Government and Public Transformation. He began by calling 2 June’s election – in a phrase he admitted has been used to describe many elections – as “the most consequential in Mexico’s contemporary history.” Expanding on this, Jesús put forward three key features: the (virtually certain) election of Mexico’s first woman president; this as the first general election after the ruling Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena)’s “political earthquake” in 2018’s election, that unseated Mexico’s previously dominant political parties; and his concern that these could be the “last elections in [Mexico’s] young constitutional democracy.”

Jesús spoke further on that third point. He argued that under the AMLO administration, Mexico’s democratic institutions have eroded over time, up to and including the current presidential campaigns. Though campaigning did not formally begin until 1 March 2024, Jesús posited that, in fact, electioneering by the candidates had already begun in earnest before this date. Moreover, he highlighted the irregularity of AMLO’s frequent interventions in campaigning in his expressions of support for his party’s candidate, Morena's Claudia Sheinbaum.

Regarding proposed amendments to Mexico’s constitution that would see, amongst other changes, the conversion of the Supreme Court to an elected body, Jesús argued this further evidenced the erosion of democratic institutions. He contended that though Xóchitl Gálvez, candidate for the opposition Fuerza y Corazón por México coalition, had faced challenges defining her campaign agenda, it has now coalesced around an idea of “keeping democracy alive.”

Laurence Whitehead, from Nuffield College, Oxford, began by stressing that although the presidential election on 2 June is fundamentally important, it is accompanied also by thousands of local and federal polls. Across Mexico, he emphasised, the experience of voters varies enormously – in their exposure to violence, for example – with likely knock-on effects on local ballots, and perhaps further up the hierarchy of elections. That, in his view, left “scope for surprise” at the national level, with congressional seats key as Morena seeks a two-thirds majority in order to push through its constitutional amendments – which is by no means guaranteed.

Laurence provided more detail on his views on the presidential candidates’ individual prospects. He regarded Gálvez as performing well, but with structural weaknesses in her campaign – including a coalition made up of political forces that “alienate” many Mexican voters. Jorge Álvarez Máynez, candidate for Movimiento Ciudadano and polling in a distant third, is extremely unlikely to win the presidency, but his party could secure important governorships. For Sheinbaum, an abiding popularity, capacity for agenda-setting and non “Teflon”-esque non-stick avoidance of criticism of AMLO has beneficially rubbed off on her campaign; but whether she could carry those factors through to her own presidency remains, in Laurence’s analysis, in doubt.

Finally, Francisco Abundis, General Director of pollsters Parametría, took a detailed look at opinion polling in the final run-up to the election. In his view, a two-thirds congressional majority for Morena is “almost impossible” due to the electoral system’s design, in which seats are split between representatives from particular districts and others from party lists under proportional representation. However, he highlighted that getting a clear picture of Mexican opinion can be challenging; polling by different organisations varies widely in methodology and results, calling some simply “publicity presented as research.”

The “name of the game,” said Francisco, might be turnout. With support for Álvarez Máynez still relatively low, but growing slightly; and pre-election polling gaps in contemporary Mexican elections tending to narrow (with the exception of 2018’s), differing rates in Morena and opposition turnout may cause some unpredictable swings in final results. Moreover, he argued that tighter races in some local elections might ripple up the chain, with potential implications at the federal level. With top voter issues including the economy, social programmes and crime and security, election results could, in many cases, prove surprising.

Following that comprehensive discussion, the floor was opened to questions. With its audience a mix of businesspeople, diplomats, politicians, academics, analysts and others, questions from the room touched upon risks of insurrection akin to the January 6 riots in the US; Mexico’s macroeconomic trajectory; the implications of a female president, and voters’ views of that prospect; the influence of organised crime groups on Mexican politics; PEMEX and an anticipated push for greater renewable energy generation; and the state of Mexico’s political Left, amongst other topics.

Canning House thanks our speakers at the finale of the Mexico 2024 Seminar Series, and indeed all those who have participated in its prior sessions; Nuffield College, Oxford and the Tecnológico de Monterrey’s School of Social Sciences and Government for support for the series; and our audiences over these five weeks for their continuous engagement and interest.

If you have missed any of the previous sessions, would like to learn about the Mexico 2024 Seminar Series, or want to know more about the presidential candidates, visit the hub page for the Series here.

Discover the series

Five Thursdays in a row, from 25 April, Canning House held a series of in-person and online seminars, tackling all aspects of Mexico's unprecedented, complex 2024 election. We heard from top academics and analysts, business leaders and experts, and got the inside scoop on the politics behind the headlines.

Return to the hub page

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