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Claudia Sheinbaum wins landslide to become Mexico’s 1st woman president

Claudia Sheinbaum is set to win a landslide victory to become Mexico's first female president, inheriting the project of her mentor and outgoing leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador whose popularity among the poor helped drive her triumph.

Mexico's largest-ever elections have also been the most violent in modern history

A woman holds her marked thumb in the air after voting.

Media outlets and the ruling party declared front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum the winner of Mexico's presidential election after polls closed on Sunday, putting her on course to be the country's first woman president.

At least five exit polls showed Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, winning the presidency, with pollster Parametria forecasting a landslide 56 per cent of the vote for the ruling Morena party candidate. Her main competitor Xochitl Galvez has not conceded and told her supporters to be patient for the official results.

Mario Delgado, head of the Morena party, told supporters in Mexico City that Sheinbaum had won by a "very large" margin.

On her way to vote on Sunday morning, Sheinbaum told journalists it was a "historic day" and that she felt at ease and content. Her victory represents a major step for Mexico, a country known for its macho culture, with her six-year term beginning Oct. 1 once results are finalized.

Mexico's largest-ever elections have also been the most violent in modern history, with the killing of 38 candidates. The deadly violence has stoked concerns about the threat of warring drug cartels to democracy. On Sunday, two people were killed at polling stations in Puebla state.

Sheinbaum, who has led convincingly in opinion polls over Galvez, will be tasked with confronting organized crime violence. More people have been killed during the mandate of outgoing president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador than during any other administration in Mexico's modern history, although the homicide rate has come down over his term.

Voters cast ballots in a polling centre.

2 dead on Sunday

The violence was not limited to candidates. Two people were killed in violence at polling centres on Sunday as people cast their ballots.

Voting was suspended at one polling place after a person was killed in a shooting in Coyomeapan, a town in the state of Puebla, the state electoral authority reported in the afternoon. The state attorney general confirmed another death at a polling centre in Tlanalapan, also in Puebla.

The deadly violence stoked concerns about the threat of warring drug cartels to democracy.

Long lines at polling stations

Galvez, a senator who represents an opposition coalition comprised of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the right-wing PAN and the leftist PRD party, chatted with supporters before casting her ballot early Sunday.

"God is with me," Galvez said, adding that she was expecting a difficult day.

A woman smiles and holds up identification outside a polling centre.

There were long lines of voters outside polling places, even before they opened at 8 a.m. local time, with some reports of delayed openings.

"It seems like a dream to me. I never imagined that one day I would vote for a woman," said 87-year-old Edelmira Montiel, a Sheinbaum supporter in Mexico's smallest state of Tlaxcala.

"Before we couldn't even vote, and when you could, it was to vote for the person your husband told you to vote for. Thank God that has changed and I get to live it," Montiel added.

Almost 100 million Mexicans were eligible to vote in Sunday's election. Other key positions were also up for grabs, including eight governorships and both chambers of Congress.

'Flooded with blood'

"The country is flooded with blood as a result of so much corruption," said Rosa Maria Baltazar, 69, a voter in Mexico City's upper-middle-class Del Valle neighbourhood. "I wish for a change of government for my country, something for a better life."

Outgoing president Obrador loomed over the campaign, seeking to turn the vote into a referendum on his political agenda. Sheinbaum has rejected opposition claims that she would be his "puppet," though she has pledged to continue many of his policies including those that have helped Mexico's poorest.

WATCH | Chaos in Mexico after stage collapses at political rally:

Chaos and confusion after stage collapses at political rally in Mexico

11 days ago

Duration 0:43

Video from the scene obtained by Reuters shows people running and screaming after a stage collapsed in San Pedro Garza Garcia, in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Challenges ahead for the next president also include addressing electricity and water shortages and luring manufacturers to relocate as part of the nearshoring trend, in which companies move supply chains closer to their main markets. The election winner also will have to wrestle with what to do with Pemex, the state oil giant that has seen production decline for two decades and is drowning in debt.

Both candidates promised to expand welfare programs, though Mexico has a large deficit this year and sluggish GDP growth of just 1.5 per cent expected by the central bank next year.

Trump presidency could complicate U.S. relationship

The new president will face tense negotiations with the United States over the huge flows of U.S.-bound migrants crossing Mexico and security co-operation over drug trafficking at a time when the U.S. fentanyl epidemic rages.

Mexican officials expect these negotiations to be more difficult if the U.S. presidency is won by Donald Trump in November.

Trump, the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime, has vowed to impose 100 per cent tariffs on Chinese cars made in Mexico and said he would mobilize special forces to fight the cartels.

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