Mexican voters to pick president and more than 18,000 other officials

(CNN) — Mexican voters are heading to the polls Sunday in a historic and consequential election that’s been marred by violence, claiming the lives of dozens of candidates.

The principal focus is on which of four candidates will be elected to the presidency: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Ricardo Anaya, Jose Antonio Meade or Jaime Rodriguez Calderon.

But the country will also weigh in on more than 18,000 other posts that are up for grabs, according to the Mexican Election Institute, including congressional seats, several governorships and municipal positions.

The election also stands to impact the country’s relationship with its neighbor to the north, as whoever wins will have to deal with his US counterpart, President Donald Trump, his threats to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and his calls for the construction of a border wall between the two countries, among other divisive talking points.

But for many of the 89 million eligible Mexican voters, Sunday’s election is a referendum on the country’s political elite and its economic direction, as well as the tenure of the current President, Enrique Peña Nieto, who is limited to a single six-year term.

Peña Nieto has been criticized by many who say he failed to adequately deal with crime, corruption and economic inequality.

It’s believed Mexican millennials and the so-called Generation Z, many of whom have grown up surrounded by rampant corruption and drug violence, will play a key role in choosing the country’s direction on Sunday. According to election officials, nearly 13 million voters between the ages of 18 and 23 will be voting for the first time.

But on Sunday morning in Mexico City, many people were watching Spain and Russia face off in the World Cup instead of election coverage. Some people told CNN they were waiting for the match to finish before making their way to the polls.

There were also signs around the city notifying residents that liquor sales are suspended because of the election.

The winner of Sunday’s presidential election doesn’t need an absolute majority of the votes, just the most votes among the four candidates.

The new president will take office on December 1.

The four candidates

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one of four candidates in the race to become the 58th president of Mexico.

Lopez Obrador, 64, is making his third presidential bid. The former mayor of Mexico City began his political career as a member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He later joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution and more recently formed his own party, the National Regeneration Movement — known as MORENA.

He lost the presidential election in 2006, called the results a fraud and spent weeks camping out in protest with thousands of his supporters in Mexico City. He lost again in 2012.

Ricardo Anaya, 39, is the candidate and former national leader of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), which governed Mexico for 12 years before Peña Nieto took office in 2012. He’s also held multiple seats in public office in the state of Querétaro and served in the lower chamber of Congress.

Jose Antonio Meade, 49, is Mexico’s former finance minister. The lawyer and economist is the candidate for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had been in power for 70 years until the election of Vicente Fox of the National Action Party in 2000.

Meade has held several cabinet posts across two administrations, including secretary of foreign affairs and secretary of social development for Peña Nieto.

Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, 60, is running as an independent. The former governor of the industrial state of Nuevo Leon is known as “El Bronco,” or wild horse, for his strong personality.

Many politicians have been killed during the campaign

This campaign season in Mexico has been particularly violent. In the nine months leading up to this weekend’s presidential election, at least 132 politicians have been killed, according to the security consulting group Etellekt.

Of those, 48 were candidates running in the current elections.

One of the most shocking deaths occurred last month, when congressional candidate Fernando Puron was shot in the head while posing for a photo in the northern state of Coahuila.

Puron was just one of 12 Institutional Revolutionary Party members to lose his life, per Etellekt.

The violence isn’t limited to politicians, either. Mexican journalist Jose Guadalupe Chan was killed on Friday in the state of Quintana Roo, state officials said in a statement. He was the seventh journalist killed in Mexico this year.

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