Josefina Vázquez Mota, the woman who vowed to be Mexico’s “first presidenta,” conceded in the race for Mexico’s president last night as exit polls put the ruling party’s candidate in a distant third.
Vázquez Mota received a quarter of the country’s votes, while Enrique Peña Nieto, of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), won 38 percent and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, won 32 percent.
“This isn’t the end of the campaign,” she said, pausing as the crowd chanted her name. “We are winners… because this is the party of liberty.”
Struggling to find a message
Vázquez Mota made a splash back in February when she beat out the president’s pick in the conservative National Action Party (PAN) primary race and became the first female candidate for president on a major-party ticket.
PAN, which came to power in 2000 after a seven-decade rule by the PRI, had hoped Vázquez Mota would be able to garner support among those who’d tired of Calderón’s policies and appeal to women voters as a working mother dedicated to public service. She’s been a congresswoman, worked in the education ministry and as social development secretary.
But Vázquez Mota faced an uphill battle from the start, as she had trouble distancing herself from Calderón and the ruling party, which many Mexicans associated with the country’s bloody drug war and lagging economy. Vázquez Mota campaigned on many similar policies that Calderón put in place, including maintaining his drug war strategy to put thousands of soldiers and police on the streets and his larger economic policies.
Analysts say her campaign strategy was weakened as she struggled to find a message that worked. First she used the simple one-word slogan “Different,” then tried to capitalize on the historic first-woman-president angle. Finally, she settled on “the best.”
While no single issue dominated the campaign, polls showed many voters were disenchanted by Calderón and voted for Peña Nieto “out of tradition, or a sense of nostalgia for what they remembered as a more stable time,” according to the New York Times.
The race was closer than many analysts had predicted with Peña Nieto losing some votes in border states with high rates of violence. Vázquez Mota won the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas as well as Veracruz, which saw a huge uptick in drug-related violence last year, and Guanajuato. She also won a majority of votes among Mexicans casting ballots from abroad, showing she’d earned favor among ex-pats.
Still an inspiration to women
In her concession speech, Vázquez Mota admitted the polls had not been in her favor all along and she promised to keep an eye on the new government to make sure there is no return to authoritarianism, corruption, impunity and kowtowing to organized crime.
She avoided specifics, but promised to remain active in advancing her causes and the rights of citizens.
Though she lost the race, it was obvious Vázquez Mota’s historic nomination inspired women in a country that gave them the right to vote less than 60 years ago. Many female voters took to the candidate’s Facebook page after her concession to express their support and to thank her for setting an example for them.
“Ms. Josefina, I thank you for your fight and your bravery (to make) a better Mexico,” wrote Priscy Morales, a Jalisco resident who studied at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “Thank you for running in these elections, don’t give up… We need people like you who open doors to new generations so we can make a difference in the country.”