Cololmbian elections into run off

You might recall us writing about the impending Colombian presidential elections.

The initial voting was completed a couple of days ago. None of the candidates got an outright majority and so the two with the most votes progress through to a run off on 15 June.

The two top candidates were the incumbent, President Juan Manual Santos, and the challenger from Centro Democratico, the party of former President and security hardliner Alvador Uribe, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. We saw Zuluaga speak when he came to Santa Marta, and at the time we noted that his name recognition was super low, so he’s done well to wiggle himself into the run off. He narrowly topped the poll with 29% compared to Santos’ 26%.

What does this mean?

Even more than before you could now interpret this election as a referendum on ongoing relations with the FARC rebel group and the peace talks with them. Santos was Uribe’s defence Minister, but as President has been more conciliatory towards the rebels than Urbie thinks is appropriate. That’s basically why he formed a new party and put Zuluaga at the head of  it (he couldn’t run himself because of term limits). Zuluaga is pledging to end the peace process if he’s elected.

While Zuluaga has done well to get this far, it’s reasonably hard to see him winning this competition. He’s further to the right of Santos, who is a more centrist candidate. So you’d expect the folks that voted for other relatively centrist or left wing candidates (not that there are many of the latter) to throw their votes to Santos giving him the win.

The x factor though will be how many of the almost 60% of voters who didn’t participate in the first round of voting turn out to vote in the run off. Both Santos and Zuluaga will be keen on their support.

We’ll be watching with interest to see how things turn out.

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