2010 Presidential Elections: Colombia Style

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Similar to the 2009 presidential election in the United States, the past few weeks have been a race to the finish line for the 2010 Colombian presidential candidates. Yesterday, Colombians had their first (but not last!) opportunity to select the best person for the job.

A Little Background Information

The president of Colombia is elected by popular vote to a four year term.  Many past presidents have been elected from the traditional two parties, liberal and conservative.  However, Colombia does have an established multi-party system, so candidates from non-dominant parties also have a reasonable chance of being elected.  The first round of elections happened yesterday, May 30, with 12 different candidates on the ballot.  Since no one candidate received more than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election with the two leading candidates, Santos and Mockus on Sunday, June 20.

Current Political Environment

Well known as a tough conservative and a rare US ally in Latin America, current president Alvaro Uribe will leave after eight years (2002 -2010) as the Colombian president.  He remains well loved by his people for his strong attitude towards the guerrilla and illegal drug trafficking.  In fact, until about six months ago, many expected Uribe to run for a third term.  However, after the Colombian court refected Uribe’s referendum to change to Colombian constitution in favor of a third term, he gracefully withdrew from the race.

Leading Candidates

The front runners in this election could not be more different from one another in their past experiences, their parties, or their vision for Colombia’s future.  While both could be positive influences in Colombia’s future, only one will truly be chosen to lead the country into a post-Uribe era.

Juan Manuel Santos

With the slogan “Para seguir avanzando, Santos Presidente”  (To continue moving forward, Santos for president), the ex-defense minister to the Uribe administraction hopes to continue the legacy of El Partido de U (The Unity Party).  According to his Colombia Reports profile, “Juan Manuel Santos is a Colombian politician, journalist and economist, who comes from one of Colombia’s most influential family dynasties. He is the great-nephew of former Colombian President Eduardo Santos, who was the owner of newspaper El Tiempo, and grandson of journalist Eduardo Santos. He is also the cousin of current Vice President Francisco Santos.”  Santos is the obvious choice for Colombians who support Uribe and want to see his agenda followed fairly closely.  Followers can read updates from the candidate on Twitter @UneteaSantos

Antanas Mockus

Amidst the well recognized symbols of sunflowers and pencils, is Antanas Mockus, with his slogan “Con educacion, todo se puede” (With education, everything is possible).  As the candidate for the Partido Verde (Green Party) Mockus has been called “the Colombian Obama” for a number of reasons, including his “underdog” status (as described here), his “anti-politician” nature, his “outsider” status as someone who typically avoids the typically corrupt political scene of Latin America, and also his use of social media (Facebook and Twitter @AntanasMockus) to connect with voters.  He believes that ideas win votes. As his Colombia Reports profile states, Mockus is known throughout Colombia for his unconventional tactics as Bogota’s two term mayor.  Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease during the campaign, Mockus has run a strong and determined campaign.

I had the opportunity to attend a Mockus rally here in Cali.  For me, the excitement and enthusiasm radiating from the supporters at the rally really emphasized for me the spirit of Colombia and the pride people have in their country. Hooray democracy! For a full account of the rally, read my own blog post on the event.

First Round Results (As reported by elecciones.com.co)

Juan Manuel Santos – 46.56%
Antanas Mockus – 21.49%
German Vargas Lleras – 10.13%
Gustavo Petro – 9.16%
Noemi Sanin – 6.14%
Rafael Pardo – 4.38%

Yesterday as the results came in, it became clear that Juan Manuel Santos won the first round with about 47% of the popular vote.  Today, the two candidates will meet with their teams as they aim to make the most of the next 20 days in yet another race to the finish.  While anything can certainly happen, many are commenting that Mockus’ percentage is too far behind Santos’ for him to catch up.  However, only time will tell us the fate of Colombia’s future…

Further Reading

For more information by people who know way more about politics than I do, please investigate one of these reliable sources. Happy reading 🙂

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Written by Kristin Radermacher

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