Vázquez Mota won 55 percent of the vote in last week's primary. (Claudia Daut / Courtesy Reuters)

Last Sunday, Mexico's incumbent National Action Party (PAN) chose its presidential candidate: Josefina Vázquez Mota, who won the party's primary to become the first female presidential candidate from a major political party in Mexican history. But Vázquez Mota's triumph was not a coup just because of her gender. She got the PAN nod (only party members actually vote in Mexican primaries), over President Felipe Calderón's handpicked candidate, Ernesto Cordero. And Vázquez Mota's victory was decisive -- she took 55 percent of the vote to Cordero's 38 percent. Despite their differences, President Calderón, her recent rivals, and the party quickly rallied behind her. 

In the presidential election, which is set for July 1, Vázquez Mota will compete in a three-way race. The current front-runner is the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) Enrique Peña Nieto, the telegenic former governor of the state of Mexico; he maintains a twenty point lead in national polls. Voters like him because of his good looks, his fairytale family history (his wife died, then he married a soap opera star), and his public works largesse when in office.

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  • SHANNON K. O’NEIL is Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her blog, Latin America’s Moment, is on cfr.org. Follow her on Twitter at @latintelligence.
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