Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Colombia: President Santos, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga Expected to Go to Run-Off May 25

Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, 62, part of a liberal-conservative coalition, and challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, 55, a conservative, would go up against each other in a runoff if the Colombian presidential election, scheduled for May 25, were held today, according to two polls released Tuesday (May 6).

In the first survey, carried out by Cifras and Conceptos for Caracol Radio and Red Mas Noticias, Santos was the preferred candidate of 27% of those polled, up from 23% in March, followed by Zuluaga with 19% after an 8 percentage point rise.

Enrique Peñalosa, 59, with the Green Alliance, lost ground among voters, dropping from 13% support to 10%, the same level as leftist Clara López, 63.

COMMENT: As I have said so frequently in the past, many Colombian voters have grown weary of peace negotiations between the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN).

The ELN has not formally engaged in peace talks as yet, although the group has made concessions to the government by releasing kidnap victims.

Interestingly, the FARC intentionally choose Havana as the venue for peace negotiations, which is hardly neutral ground.

My largest objection to the structuring of the talks is that neither the Colombian government nor the FARC were able to agree to a cease-fire prior to the peace negotiations beginning in November 2012.

The intention to cast blank ballots fell from 26% to 17%, according to this survey, which was carried out on April 26-28 among 2,500 adults in 32 different cities.

In yet another polling, the Centro Nacional de Consultoria, Santos would garner a plurality of 23%, while Zuluaga would pull in 22% and Peñalosa 13%.

Zuluaga is the protege of former President Alvaro Uribe, the latter of whom never agreed to negotiation with the FARC.

Though Santos served as defense minister in Uribe’s 2002-2010 government, since then the two men have been estranged.

If no candidate emerges from the initial balloting with more than 50%, a second round would be held on June 15.