Urbane, socially progressive, and eager to put Mexico on the world stage, Marcelo Ebrard presents a sharp contrast to the popular, sharp-tongued defender of the country’s impoverished hinterlands he hopes to succeed as president.
Having followed once in the footsteps of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as mayor of Mexico City, Ebrard is banking he can do it again in the race to be the ruling National Regeneration Movement’s (MORENA) 2024 presidential candidate.
This month, the 63-year-old Ebrard stood down as foreign minister to seek the MORENA nomination, unleashing a contest that could strain the leftist party’s unity.
His more business-oriented and moderate instincts stand apart from Lopez Obrador’s outspoken rhetoric, but also raise doubts about whether he can get enough support from a party whose base identifies strongly with the president, analysts say.
Reuters spoke to over two dozen officials, politicians, diplomats, executives, and aides to Ebrard to assess his chances of clinching the MORENA ticket for the June 2024 election.
A winner is expected on Sept. 6 after national polling.
Luis Huacuja, a political consultant and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said Ebrard’s experience and record appeared to make him an “ideal” contender.
But that did not mean party loyalists would when polled, see the more centrist Ebrard as most suited to upholding Lopez Obrador’s legacy, he argued.
“He could go down well in some quarters, and badly in others,” Huacuja said.
Ebrard has won some early battles, persuading the president that contenders for the nomination should leave office, and that polls to pick the winner be open to the public.
He told Reuters “hard” left critics had long painted him as moderate, but said they had not governed – and that it was he who delivered results for the capital as mayor from 2006-2012.
Private investment flourished during his administration, Ebrard said, pointing to how the left’s appeal in Mexico City extended from poorer households to the middle class, helping his successor secure a landslide victory.
That support was crucial to control Congress, he argued.
“You need a coalition with the middle class either way,” said Ebrard, who has been a key troubleshooter for Lopez Obrador, helping contain threats from former U.S. President Donald Trump over immigration, trade, and security.
While Lopez Obrador has slammed critics, clashed with business, and questioned checks on presidential power, Ebrard, supporters say, is a unifier who will lift growth and reassure investors.
“(Ebrard) is committed to the division of powers and strengthening institutions,” said MORENA senator Rafael Espino.
If nominated, Ebrard is likely to become president, polling shows. MORENA is a hot favorite to win, propelled by Lopez Obrador’s approval ratings of around 60%. Mexican law bars presidents from re-election.