In Colombia, A Second Round but a Disappointing Finish
by Charles Lemos, Sun May 30, 2010 at 07:36:28 PM EDT
With 99.1 percent of the results in and no candidate achieving the required 50 percent plus one to claim the presidency, Colombia will head to a second round run off on June 20th. Juan Manuel Santos of the pro-Uribe Partido de la U came in first with a surprisingly strong 46.57 percent of the vote. The Green party candidate Antanas Mockus finished second but disappointingly won only 21.47 percent of the vote.
|Juan Manuel Santos||Partido de la U||6,740,944||46.57%|
|Antanas Mockus||Partido Verde||3,108,873||21.47%|
|Germán Vargas Lleras||Cambio Radical||1,469,540||10.15%|
|Gustavo Petro||Polo Democrático||1,326,756||9.16%|
I'm still digesting the news feed but at first glance a few observations. Only 14,722,186 Colombians voted out of 29,938,279 eligible. Once again indifference seems the big winner. Mockus finished poorly, the question is why did he underperform polling by some 15 points. Vargas Lleras, a dissident Liberal, did much better than expected more than doubling his expected vote tally. While he performed well in the debates, so did the leftist Gustavo Petro who finished a disappointing fourth. For the long dominant Conservatives and the Liberals, these results confirm a longer-term trend of political decline.
More Thoughts and Numbers
In looking at the results, and there is no exit polling to speak of so by results I mean what the Colombian electoral board releases, there are some striking numbers. Santos won all but two provincial capitals and most surprisingly Santos won in Bogotá by a 13 point margin (40 to 27 percent). Bogotá had been expected to go heavily for Mockus. Mockus won in Tunja where the Green party has its strongest organizational base and in Mocoa, the capital of the Putumayo department, on the Ecuadorian border. These were expected. Surprisingly the Greens failed to carry the Pacific coast where Mockus had campaigned heavily. Mockus came close in a number of departmental capitals such as Manizales and my hometown of Cali but he fared poorly on the Atlantic coast where Santos and Vargas Lleras did exceptionally well.
Mockus did well with the overseas vote winning across Europe and the Asia-Pacific. However Santos took 70 percent of the vote from Colombians living in the US. Still the number of expat Colombians who vote represents a small fraction of the electorate. Only 88,737 Colombians living abroad voted even though 415,000 were registered.
The number that jumps out is the abstention rate of 51 percent, a slight improvement over 2006 when 55 percent failed to vote but nonetheless a major disappointment. We were really expecting 16 million to vote out of 29 million eligible voters. Less than 15 million turned out to vote. Without hard data to pour over, it's difficult to draw definitive conclusions but I suspect that the number of first time voters failed to materialize. Indifference is the enemy of democracy in Colombia.
As per voting buying, that's a fact of life in Colombia and a practice that goes back decades. The reports that I have seen so far suggest massive voting buying in the rural parts of Cauca, Antioquia and the rural outskirts of Bogotá. I haven't seen any reports as yet but the Atlantic coast is another area where vote buying is prevalent. If this election followed previous ones then perhaps one in five votes was bought. The going rate is around $50 USD with lunch and other sundries included.
Looking at the Second Round
For Mockus, it is going to be a tough haul to overcome a 25 point deficit but the second round is a first past the post run off and many, if not most, of those who voted for Vargas Lleras, Petro and Pardo will gravitate towards Mockus. For Mockus, the imperative is to focus on what propelled him into the hearts of millions, his message of sanctity of life, an uncompromising adherence to legality and an unyielding intolerance of corruption. Mockus did not do well in the debates in part because he comes off as too thoughtful and perhaps meandering. He'll need to sharpen his answers but beyond this Mockus just needs to be Mockus the philosophical and moralizing agent of Colombian rejuvenation.
[UPDATE] I was pouring over the data from the overseas vote and I'm dumbfounded by the wide divergence in the vote of the Colombian diaspora. Mockus won the vote in Australia, in Japan, in China, in South Africa, in every single European country and in most of the Americas with three exceptions: Bolivia, Venezuela and the United States. Santos took 70 percent of the vote from Colombians living in the US. It must be the water.