This year, Mexico City (CDMX) is up for elections; candidates will be contesting for leadership positions in the city’s 16 boroughs as well as its central government. The city’s elections are scheduled to occur on July 1, the same day that Mexicans head to the polls to vote for the country’s presidential elections.
With a population of around nine million, CDMX is the political, economic, social, and cultural capital of Mexico, accounting for almost 20% of the country’s GDP and representing the country’s top destination for foreign direct investment. Since 1997, the city has been governed by successive PRD administrations, most notably under the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who leads the polls in Mexico’s presidential elections. Several developments occurred in CDMX under the leadership of the PRD: The city’s tourism industry has grown tremendously and today generates about 20% of local GDP; in 2007, the city’s congress decriminalized abortion, and in 2009, the legislature legalized same-sex marriage and adoption, converting CDMX into a national leader in social rights; the government spent heavily on massive infrastructure projects in the past 20 years, with AMLO’s construction of a second level of the city’s main highway system and former mayor Marcelo Ebrard’s expansion of the subway representing two of the city’s most expensive and controversial projects. Mexico City has traditionally served as the PRD’s most important voter base and other political parties like the PAN and PRI have struggled to seriously challenge the party in city politics.
Recently, though, the city’s political preferences have diversified, and this year the PRD faces a tough election, especially from the far left by candidates from MORENA, the political party founded by AMLO himself. Two key developments from recent years are important for understanding today’s political outlook for Mexico City. First, in 2015 MORENA won over five boroughs from the PRD, and the PRD also lost two other boroughs to the PRI. Second, in 2016 MORENA overtook PRD as the party with the most representatives in the city’s congress, winning 20 representatives over the PRD’s 17. Moreover, AMLO’s departure from the party in 2012 severed PRD’s image as a party from the left, and MORENA’s lead in the presidential elections has also weakened support for the PRD in Mexico City.
And in terms of the candidates? On February 11, the pre-campaign period for CDMX came to a close and all participating political parties have formally nominated candidates to run for the city’s mayoral seat. During the pre-campaign period, candidates are not allowed to access public funds and must finance their efforts entirely from private donations and their own resources. Below are the three main contenders for the city’s mayoral election:
Mikel Arriola, the candidate for the PRI, was previously general director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security. Arriola graduated with a law degree from Universidad Anahuac and has Masters’ Degrees in Public Policy and Law from the London School of Economics and the University of Chicago, respectively.
Alejandra Barrales, the candidate for the PRD-PAN alliance, was previously the president of the PRD and Mexico City’s secretary of education. Barrales graduated with a law degree from the Universidad Mexicana and holds a Masters of Public Administration from the National Institute of Public Administration in Mexico (INAP). The PRD-PAN alliance was partially formed out of a necessity to counter a growing threat from MORENA and also includes the smaller Movimiento Ciudadano party.
Claudia Sheinbaum, the candidate for MORENA, was AMLO’s campaign spokesperson in the 2006 presidential elections and served as Tlapan’s borough chief for MORENA between 2015-2017. Sheinbaum graduated with a degree in physics from UNAM and also holds a Masters of Engineering from the same institution.
On February 12, candidates entered the inter-campaign period, which bars candidates from actively campaigning and directly engaging with the citizenry until March 29. After the period’s conclusion, candidates can officially launch their campaigns and are eligible to receive public funding from Mexico City’s Electoral Institute. Borough leaders begin their own campaigns on April 29.
There is still a long way to go until July 1, but this year’s elections in Mexico City will be tightly contested and are particularly important, both because they coincide with the country’s presidential elections and because they represent a threat to the PRD’s well established base. The winners from both elections begin their mandates on December 1 of this year. Whether or not MORENA wins both governments will have important implications on relationships between CDMX’s government and its federal counterpart.