Women in Mexican politics
The XX factor
Can a woman candidate count on female voters' support?
Feb 11th 2012 | MEXICO CITY | from the print edition
UNTIL this year, no woman had ever been the presidential candidate for any of Mexico's main political parties. That changed on February 5th, when Josefina Vázquez Mota, a former secretary of education and of social development, won the primary of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). "I will be Mexico's first presidenta" (female president), she said in her victory speech.
Ms Vázquez is a clear underdog in the July 1st election. Polls taken before the primary put the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) nearly 20 points ahead of the ruling PAN (see chart). Voters have tired of the PAN, which has presided over slow growth and rising violence during 11 years in power. Ms Vázquez could even finish third behind Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, a left-winger who narrowly lost the 2006 race.
No one knows if Mexico's supposedly macho voters are open to a female candidate. Women only gained the right to vote in 1953. But Mexican politics is not especially male-dominated: women hold over a quarter of congressional seats. That is a higher proportion than America's and twice as high as the share in Brazil, which elected a female president in 2010.
Ms Vázquez has said she considers her sex an advantage. It certainly helps to distinguish her from Felipe Calderón, the unpopular current president and a fellow PAN member. According to Mitofsky, a polling firm, women outnumber men by a fifth among her supporters.
Meanwhile, her rivals' attempts to woo female voters have not gone well. The PRI's handsome Enrique Peña Nieto, whose rallies draw throngs of swooning señoritas, was thought to have an edge with them. But when he was recently asked if he knew the price of meat and tortillas, he replied that he was not "the lady of the house". A few weeks later an ex-girlfriend accused him of neglecting children he fathered outside marriage. The fiery Mr López has tried to soften his image by promising a "loving republic". But women seem unmoved. A majority of both candidates' fans are male.
Women have always been less likely to vote than men in Mexico. Might that change this year? The gender gap has disappeared in school-attendance and literacy rates. A third of women work outside the home, helped by a fall in the fertility rate from nearly seven children per woman in the 1960s to around two today. But younger Mexicans of both sexes are less likely to vote than others; and Ms Vázquez's opposition to abortion may not appeal to the new generation of empowered women. She clearly needs their support to close the gap.
from the print edition | The Americas
Rodrigo González Fernández
Diplomado en "Responsabilidad Social Empresarial" de la ONU
Diplomado en "Gestión del Conocimiento" de la ONU
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