In Colombia, A Second Round but a Disappointing Finish

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.

Candidate Party Vote Total     Pct
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%
Noemí Sanín Conservador    889,756     6.14%
Rafael Pardo Liberal    632,955     4.37%

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.

Tags: Colombia, Colombia 2010, Green party, Antanas Mockus (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

I'm so sorry

that is so different from what polls projected. Nate Silver thought Mockus would go into the runoff in a commanding position. Disappointing.

by desmoinesdem 2010-05-30 08:00PM | 1 recs
RE: I'm so sorry

Correction: that was at Nate Silver's site, but the post was by Renard Sexton.

by desmoinesdem 2010-05-30 08:03PM | 0 recs
RE: I'm so sorry

well the number that jumps out at me is the 14.7 million voters. That number is awfully low by at least 1.3m.

I haven't seen any demographic breakdown as yet just geographic.

by Charles Lemos 2010-05-30 08:06PM | 0 recs
what time did polls close?
I am surprised 99 percent of the vote has been counted already.
by desmoinesdem 2010-05-30 08:01PM | 0 recs
RE: what time did polls close?

4PM Central.

Colombian elections are always held on Sundays and the polls are open from 8AM to 4PM local time worldwide.

It took me 30 seconds to vote. The San Francisco consulate was packed. The only difference from previous occasions was the lack of demonstrators.

by Charles Lemos 2010-05-30 08:22PM | 1 recs
rural areas

This might offer some clues as to why the polls were so off:

"Mockusians" design and print campaign posters on their own computers. Young voters organize flash mobs where they freeze in a certain position in any public area until enough passers-by express interest, then reveal their green Mockus T-shirts and chant his slogans.

Much of the political organizing happens on Facebook and Twitter, new elements in Colombian electoral politics, elements that Mockus has dominated.

The run-off will be interesting. fwiw, the polls show Mockus ahead for that June 20th contest!

Still, for many people in the countryside, where rebels and militias roam free, security is a top issue and many people there know little about Mockus, Facebook, or philosophy. Opponent Santos is expected to carry many of the rural areas in the election.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-05-30 08:13PM | 1 recs
RE: rural areas

True, that was always a worry.

I'll add more to the post but the surprise is not that Santos finished first but rather that he finished 25 points up.

In Bogotá, Santos won twice as many votes as Mockus. That was wholly unexpected and it's going to be difficult to overcome.

A quick takeaway, a political machine matters. Mockus won in just two departmental capitals and in one of those the Greens actually have a get out the vote operation. Elsewhere they don't.

by Charles Lemos 2010-05-30 08:32PM | 0 recs

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