Colombia to the Polls

Colombia is currently choosing its next president.

Today Colombians are voting in the second round of their presidential elections, pitting the top two finishers from the first round that was held last month.  Colombia, like all presidential democracies (save one) requires that the winner has more votes than their opponent, and specifically requires that that winner obtain an absolute majority of voter support.

The first round results were as follows:

Candidate Party/alliance First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Iván Duque Márquez Grand Alliance for Colombia 7,569,693 39.14
Gustavo Petro List of Decency 4,851,254 25.09
Sergio Fajardo Colombia Coalition 4,589,696 23.73
Germán Vargas Lleras Mejor Vargas Lleras 1,407,840 7.28
Humberto De la Calle PLCASI 399,180 2.06
Jorge Antonio Trujillo We Are All Colombia 75,614 0.39
Promotores Voto En Blanco Party of Ethnic Reclamation “PRE” 60,312 0.31
Viviane Morales Hoyos Somos Región Colombia 41,458 0.21
Blank votes 341,087 1.76
Invalid votes 300,080
Total 19,336,134 100
Registered voters/turnout 36,227,267 53.37

Duque represents the right and is supported by former president, and current Senator, Álvaro Uribe,  Petro is from the left/center-left and is both a former mayor of  Bogotá and former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement (that demobilized in the late 1980s).*  In terms of a major issue within Colombian politics in recent years, Duque is part of the bloc that was opposed to the peace process with the FARC, while Petro was in favor.  While the Constitutional Court of Colombia has ruled that the accord cannot be undone, it is clearly relevant who wins in regards to the ongoing implementation of that process.

Polls suggest a Duque win, and given that Duque’s supporting network is likely to be better than Petro’s at mobilizing the vote, this strike me as the likely outcome. It is the case that the pro-peace accord candidates won the majority of the vote in the first round, it is also true that the centrist Fajardo, who was part of the pro-peace accord group, has not supported Petro, but instead had campaigned for the blank vote (essentially a “none of the above” option that, if it won, would lead to a new vote with a new set of candidates).**

Petro was a controversial mayor, and was briefly removed from office by the Uribe administration, although he was later restored to office.  He is often criticized as arrogant and as one who too often thinks of himself as the smartest in the room.  What is he is not, however, is a chavista, but that has been the main line of attack from the Duque campaign.

A Duque win would represent a win by the rightward segment of the Colombian political establishment.  A Petro win would be both an upset as well as the first time a leftward candidate would occupy the Colombian presidency–especially in terms of being from outside the parties and factions that have normally occupied that office.

Preliminary results will start to come out not long after 4pm, when voting stops.

*I interviewed Petro when he was a young politician back in my first research trip to Colombia in 1992.

**Correction: in the second round, the voto en blanco is symbolic.  It only matters if it wins the first round by 50%+1

FILED UNDER: Latin America, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter