Josefina Vázquez Mota has been selected to represent the ruling National Action Party (PAN) in Mexico's 2012 presidential elections.

Vázquez Mota, a former education minister, is the first female candidate to be selected to run for the presidency from the conservative party. She beat out Ernesto Cordero, who resigned as finance minister in September to pursue in his bid.

Cordero had the support of President Felipe Calderon, who cannot compete for a second six-year term.

I am going to be the first female president in the history of our country, Vázquez Mota, also a former congresswoman, said after the results were announced. I am going to look after your family as I have looked after my own.

Vázquez Mota will be competing against Enrique Pena Nieto, the front-runner from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

“Today we end a primary and start a new journey, a journey to defeat the real adversary of Mexico, who represents authoritarianism and the worst anti-democratic practices, who represents the return to a corrupt system,” Vázquez Mota said at her victory party.

“This adversary is Pena Nieto and his party,” she added. The PRI ruled Mexico unchallenged for most of the last century.

Down by 20 points in the polls, Vázquez Mota's must shifting the focus from her predecessor's polarizing war on drugs. Around 50,000 Mexicans have died as a result of drug-related violence since Calderon took office in 2006, but in her campaign she is already speaking more about political corruption than societal ills. Vázquez Mota has promised to jail any politician guilty of corruption, a continuing problem in Mexico.

After Vázquez Mota's primary victory on Sunday night, Pena Nieto tweeted friendly words of encouragement.

“Congratulations, and welcome to the democratic process, the candidate said.