Sheinbaum just won a massive mandate in Mexico. Here’s how she might use it.

The election of Claudia Sheinbaum as Mexico’s next president was no surprise. In poll after poll, she consistently held the lead throughout the campaign season, and her victory was assumed going into Sunday’s vote. What was not expected, however, was her wide margin of victory and the overall percentage of the vote she received. What does this mean for Mexico going forward?

The numbers show an incoming administration with a strong mandate. With 58.3 to 60.7 percent of the vote, according to the National Electoral Institute’s Quick Count, Sheinbaum will enter office on October 1 even surpassing the share obtained by the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won in 2018 with 53.2 percent of the votes. Her margin of victory over the second-place finisher could range from 29.7 to 34.1 percentage points—on track to likely surpass López Obrador’s margin (30.9 percentage points) as well. 

Beyond the surprise in outperforming even some of the most generous polls, her party, MORENA, and its allies received a mandate in Congress that also surpassed expectations. In the Chamber of Deputies, the new Congress will convene in September with the MORENA coalition holding a supermajority (at least two-thirds of the seats), and it is within striking range to do the same in the Senate. Early signs indicate that the MORENA coalition will hold a minimum of 346 seats in the 500-person lower House and could hold anywhere from 76 to 88 seats in the 128-person Senate, with 85 seats required for a supermajority.

The significance here cannot be overstated. A supermajority allows for constitutional changes—from the direct election of judges to the independence of regulatory agencies—which could not be obtained thus far by the López Obrador administration. Explicit campaign pledges can now be advanced. This means a potential acceleration of the Fourth Transformation of the Mexican state as ushered in by López Obrador, especially if the outgoing president prioritizes constitutional changes once the new Congress convenes on September 1.

As López Obrador’s hand-picked successor, Sheinbaum will certainly continue with her predecessor’s policies, but she will also be her own president. A scientist by training and a former secretary of the environment, she will bring new technical expertise and pragmatism to the presidency. That was evident in her time as head of government of Mexico City, where she developed and then continuously followed up on the implementation status of her 220-page government plan.

Expect to see several of her priorities during her term running Mexico City to carry over to her presidential administration. For example, speaking with the Atlantic Council on the sidelines of the Cities Summit of the Americas last year, Sheinbaum showed an in-depth, technical perspective on sustainability—not simply as stewardship of natural resources, but also as an issue interconnected with education, social justice, healthcare, housing, and infrastructure. 

Sheinbaum mentioned throughout her campaign the need to move forward with the energy transition, comments that reflect her background in energy engineering. There will inevitably be a role for the private sector to play in this transition, but as with her broader perspectives, the view of the Sheinbaum camp is that the government should lead the charge. The public-private partnerships that Sheinbaum moved forward during her leadership in Mexico City could be a model she brings to her new administration to advance, for example, more renewable energy projects in Mexico.

Infrastructure will also likely be a priority for the incoming administration. In her acceptance speech early Monday morning, Sheinbaum spoke about the need for new highways, trains, airports, and ports. All of these strategic projects are critical for Mexico to take advantage of the investment opportunities related to nearshoring with the United States. But given the tight government budget conditions that the new government will face, completing these projects will not be easy. Here, too, watch to see if the new administration turns to public-private partnerships to move these projects forward.

Finally, Sheinbaum will assume office in October with not only a sizable domestic mandate, but also with an opportunity to deepen Mexico’s engagement beyond its borders. López Obrador rarely traveled abroad, and Sheinbaum followed suit as head of government in Mexico City. Even though she took office in 2018, her trip to Denver for the Cities Summit of the Americas last year was rarity. But if and when she goes abroad, she will generate much interest given the potentially transformative moment she will oversee in Mexico and her place in history as Mexico’s first female president.

Jason Marczak is vice president and senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. He leads work on the economic and security impacts of greater efficiencies and reduced wait times at the US-Mexico border including presenting findings before the Mexican Congress.

Bosco Martí is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and is the global director of institutional affairs and communications for Aleatica. He previously served as executive director for Mexico and the Dominican Republic at the Inter-American Development Bank.

Further reading

Image: Claudia Sheinbaum, the presidential candidate of the ruling MORENA party, reacts as she addresses her supporters after winning the election, in Mexico City, Mexico June 3, 2024. REUTERS/Raquel Cunha