Colombia. A Left Turn.

On May 29, the first round of presidential elections takes place in Colombia, the third-largest electorate in Latin America in terms of population.

It is a country that has been ruled for more than six decades by centre-right forces, following an agreement between them after a long period of political instability, dictatorships and violence, in which guerrilla organizations such as the M- 19 first and then the FARC, with drug cartels and paramilitary groups exercising violence outside the control of the state, were central players.

This decreased after the FARC disarmament agreement signed by former President Juan Manuel Santos in November 1996. But the continuation of the armed struggle by dissident sectors of the FARC, the ELN guerrilla group and new organizations that have arisen to control the illegal exploitation of mines, maintain a situation of violence, especially in the border area between Colombia and Venezuela, where the political strategy of President Nicolás Maduro plays a role in influencing
these groups.

The now former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe has been the central figure of the Colombian right so far into the 21st century. He was the “political godfather” of his two successors, first Santos and the current president, Iván Duque. The current Colombian constitution allows for re-election and then one can no longer become president. Uribe and Santos had two mandates, but Duque did not.

The party system in place until the beginning of the 21st century had its roots in the 20th century, and there were conservatives and liberals. They had shared power since the 1960s, achieving quite exceptional political-institutional stability for Latin America in the last decades of the 20th century, but coexisting with a high level of violence. This system began to break down under the leadership of Álvaro Uribe, who formed his own political force as a dissident of the Liberal Party, while the Conservative Party gradually lost votes and structure.

The last president of the Conservative Party was Andrés Pastrana, Uribe’s predecessor. The left lacked electoral strength during the twentieth century, in a context in which public opinion rejected the violence of the guerrillas. But social discontent has grown in the 21st century and, since 2019, there have been wide-ranging violent protests that have highlighted the questioning of the political and social system and the demand for greater equality.

As an alternative, the left was gaining strength and in the last presidential elections, a candidate of this orientation, Gustavo Petro, who was mayor of Bogota, the country’s capital, competed in the second round with current president Iván Duque, who won. So it was, that a competition between a centre-left and a centre-right coalition took place in a country that began to have an ideological and not just a political polarization, like that of the liberals and conservatives during the second half of the last century.

Since the protests began in 2019, Gustavo Petro has begun to lead the polls for the 2022 presidential election. His election seems logical while the region is turning left, whether it radicalises with the consolidation of regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, or towards a moderate version represented by Lula in Brazil, Boric in Chile and Petro in Colombia, among others.

The Colombian candidate has differed greatly from the former in recent weeks, trying to capture the country’s moderate vote. The centre-right struggled to unify. The most prominent candidate of this force in the polls is Federico Gutiérrez, but his arrival in the second round still requires capturing the votes of other centre-right expressions.

But a centre has also emerged, represented by the candidacy of Sergio Fajardo. The difficulties of unification of the centre-right highlight the weakening of Uribe in this sector of Colombian politics.
The centre and the centre-right have so far failed to achieve electoral unification of their respective areas, as has Petro, who will undoubtedly be in the second round.

With just a few days to go before the elections, all the polls show Gustavo Petro as the winner. A poll conducted by the Guarumo polling agency and published on March 6 shows that the centre-left coalition of Gustavo Petro (Pacto Histórico) would get 36.6 per cent of the votes in the first round, split between Petro (32.7 per cent), France Márquez (2.5 per cent) and three other candidates (1.4 per cent).

In second place would be Equipo por Colombia, the centre-right coalition, with 19.3 per cent of the vote, split between Federico Gutiérrez (7.7 per cent), Alejandro Char (6.4 per cent) and three others. centre-right candidates (5.2 per cent).

In third place, the centre coalition (Centro Esperanza) would get 18.6% of the votes, split between Sergio Fajardo (9.1%), who would be the second most individually voted candidate after Gustavo Petro, and four other candidates (9. 5%).

Finally, outside these coalitions, the pro-government candidate Oscar Iván Zuloaga would get 5.3% of the vote and the independent candidate Rodolfo Hernández 8.2%. For his part, the polling agency Invamer has released its latest poll with several run-off scenarios – to be held on June 19 – in which Petro wins by a large margin against any candidate.

The closest scenario for the Pacto Histórico candidate would be a runoff against Sergio Fajardo, with 55.8% for the former and 40.2% for the latter. Against the independent candidate Rodolfo Hernández, the difference in a hypothetical ballot is 56.6% in favour of Petro against 39.4% for the candidate of the League of Anti-Corruption Rulers; against Juan Manuel Galán, the centrist candidate, Petro would win 55.6% to 39%, and the same would be true for Federico Gutiérrez of the centre-right coalition Equipo por Colombia (58.8% to 36.3%), pro-government Óscar Iván Zuluaga (59.5% to 34.4%) or Alejandro Gaviria (61% to 33.4%), also from Centro Esperanza, in addition to Fajardo and Galán.

In conclusion, the centre-left leader, Gustavo Petro, leads the polls for the presidential elections of 2022; finally, the polls show three forces, one centre-left, one centre-right and one centre, but Petro wins in the first round against any other candidate, by an appreciable margin. (Photo: ©123RF.COM)

Rosendo Fraga/Nueva Mayoria





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