Señor Presidente

The dust hasn’t completely settled on the Congressional elections, but attention here is already turning to the Presidential vote on 25 May. Sadly we’ll be south of the border down Ecuador way by that point, but that’s no reason we can’t take an interest now.

Currently the incumbent, President Santos, is ahead. He’s polling at about 24%. A range of opposition parties are jockeying for second place:

  • The Alianza Verde (Green) candidate is polling second on 17.1%. Polling second for President is remarkable when the Greens have only won a handful of Congressional seats in their history.
  • The right wing, and hard line Centro Democratico candidate is polling third on 14.6%.
  • After various horse trading between left wing candidates in the wake of the Congressional elections, the Polo Democratico candidate is waving the banner for the left, and currently fourth on 10.7%. Clara Lopez Obregon does, however, get snaps for the best campaign slogan: La alternativa es Clara!

Running off

The President is elected through a similar system to the one used in France. There’s a nationwide vote and if no one candidate gets more than 50% then there’s a second election between the two frontrunners. As you can see from the figures above, there’ll almost certainly be a second vote, and that’s where things get interesting.

On current polling, a run-off between the incumbent centrist Santos, and the hard right Centro Democratico candidate would see Santos home comfortably. That makes sense, assuming left wing votes back the centrist. It’s reminiscent of the demolition of Jean Marie Le Pen in France. Santos would also beat the left candidate, though by a smaller margin.

But the real news is that a race between Alliance Verde candidate Enrique Peñalosa and Santos would be in the margin of error. Very close indeed.

Peñalosa has gotten a big polling bump in the latest poll since he was selected in the Alianza Verde primary. He seems like an interesting guy. He was a journalist and spent a term as mayor of Bogota from 1998-2001. He raised sidewalks so cars couldn’t drive on them, and he started the TransMilenio mass rapid transit bus system.

Given the Alianza Verde’s limited success in Colombian politics to date, and the fact that a run-off system should probably favour a centrist candidate, it seems likely that Peñalosa is mostly trading on his own name. In any case, if he makes it to the Presidential Palace, that’d be remarkable.

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