Opinion & analysis

Three things you need to know about the 2024 Mexican elections

By Fernanda Zistecatl Espinosa

2024 has been called "The Year of Elections" because over 60 countries, representing nearly half the world's population, will hold national elections. Mexico is no exception. On 2 June, the country will undertake an unprecedented electoral process with three distinctive characteristics.

First, it will be the largest election in Mexican history, with over 20,000 public offices at the federal, state, and local levels on the ballot. Voter turnout is expected to exceed 97 million people. Second, for the first time, two women are the leading contenders to become Mexico's first female president. Finally, this has become the most violent election season in recent Mexican history. Since September 2023, at least 701 incidents of electoral violence have occurred, including 225 killings related to the elections.

In this context, we are paying attention to three key areas:

Political participation of underrepresented groups

Gender parity has been an enshrined constitutional principle in Mexico since 2014. A 2019 constitutional reform mandated equal representation and participation for women across all public institutions and decision-making positions. The Mexican National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral) also implements affirmative action measures to ensure quotas for Indigenous people, Afro-Mexican people, people of sexual diversity, people with disabilities, migrants, and citizens residing abroad. Despite these efforts, underrepresented groups still face significant obstacles like lack of training, insufficient support during elections, and various forms of violence both on- and offline.

In this context, the work of Luminate's partner organisations Aúna and Yaaj is vital. They play an instrumental role in ensuring active civic engagement of women from diverse backgrounds and the LGBT+ community in Mexico.

Addressing the violence faced by underrepresented groups online, on 14 May Luminate and El País co-hosted the forum, Women in Power: Political Representation and Technology in Elections. The event explored strategies to increase diverse women's representation in Mexican politics while examining how disinformation and online gender-based violence impact their candidacies. It also provided a platform to discuss potential solutions to these challenges in Mexico, drawing on experiences from other Latin American countries. Experts from academia, politics, civil society, social media platforms, and intergovernmental organisations contributed to the discussion, which can be watched here:

Violence against journalists

Mexico stands out as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Data from our partner organisation Article 19 paints a grim picture: On average, a journalist or media outlet is attacked every 16 hours simply for doing their job, with the State being the primary perpetrator of these attacks.

It is crucial to closely monitor and address violence against journalists, especially during this election year. Various forms of aggression have already been documented, including intimidation, harassment, threats, physical assaults, censorship, abuse of power, property destruction, and even killings.

Independent journalism is vital for both electoral processes and democracy as a whole, ensuring citizens have access to accurate, high-quality information representing a wide range of perspectives. Protecting journalists is essential to upholding press freedom, and free and fair elections.

Technology, disinformation, and hate speech

Social media platforms act as vital hubs for connectivity and mobilisation in Mexico, where 63% of the population uses them to access news. However, these platforms also enable the rampant spread of disinformation and hate speech. Disinformation can distort perceptions, sway decisions, and undermine election integrity, exacerbating societal polarisation. According to an Ipsos survey commissioned by UNESCO, 85% of global respondents are concerned about the impact of online disinformation, with 87% fearing its influence on electoral processes in their countries.

During the Mexican elections, the proliferation of disinformation has been amplified by the use of artificial intelligence, particularly in creating deepfakes targeting both federal and local candidates. Additionally, the prevalence of hate speech on social media disproportionately affects underrepresented communities. In Mexico, 65% of social media users encounter offensive comments directed at these groups, primarily targeting the LGBT+ community, racial minorities, and women.

This environment underscores the pressing need to secure a digital environment that fosters public discourse with accurate and less divisive information while upholding freedom of expression. However, as noted by partner organisations Article 19, R3D, and AccessNow, this is challenging in Mexico, where existing electoral regulations tend toward over-regulation, lack of consistent enforcement, and failure to ensure unfettered freedom of expression. This is particularly concerning, given that these forms of speech are protected by both the Inter-American system and Mexican jurisprudence.

Furthermore, social media platforms, which play a crucial role in mitigating risks and finding solutions, lack transparency regarding their operations, algorithm configurations, and content moderation strategies, undermining users' right to information.

Amidst these historic elections, the electoral process presents an extraordinary opportunity to reaffirm the commitment to building more inclusive societies, where all individuals can fully exercise their rights. At Luminate, we remain steadfast in our support of initiatives that embody this commitment.