Colombia not only decides this Sunday the composition of its Congress for the next four years. Those who come to vote will also be able to choose one of three inter-party consultations that are convened to decide on the final candidates for the presidency. Formations of the left (Historic Pact), center (Esperanza) and right (Team for Colombia) agreed months ago that they would support the winner (almost always a man, actually) who came out of each of them. And although there are candidates who present themselves independently, it is most likely that the future Colombian Head of State will be among them.
Historical Pact: Petro, without rival
Gustavo Petro is right now the strongest contender of all those who aspire to occupy the Casa de Nariño from next August 7. In the inter-party consultation no one comes even close to him, to the point that many voices question what was the need to convene it. More than sixty points separate him from his immediate follower.
The most realistic answer is that for Petro, this pre-election has hardly been a way to continue with the opposition campaign that he launched the day after losing the 2018 second round against Iván Duque. He then achieved around 42% of the support, an unusual figure for a candidate as far to the left on the ideological spectrum as this former mayor of Bogotá (and, decades ago, a former M19 guerrilla). He now hopes to outdo him, assuming he has a near-fixed spot in the second round. There is not a single poll that does not give it to him, although he plays with a lot of advantage in the question about the final presidential election because he is the only one that all the citizens assume that he will be there. The real barrier for him is that 42%, more than what the polls now indicate. And, although it is true that the final vote intention has risen (the question of “who would I vote for the presidency of Colombia if the election were today”), it has also decreased in support within its own consultation (the question of “why who will vote in the inter-party consultation of the Historical Pact”). Francia Márquez, an Afro-peasant activist from the Pacific coast, has managed to make a dent in Petro’s still sky-high numbers.
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For Márquez this is already a victory. No one realistically expected him to top Petro, the focal point of all national policy debates. But he did begin to achieve public recognition that has traditionally been denied to profiles like his in a country that tends to choose its political elites among men from the capital, or in any case from Antioquia. It remains to be seen whether Petro will follow through on an internal commitment to name the second-most-voted person as his vice-presidential ticket.
Fajardo leads the fight for the Esperanza Center without destroying it
In the center the choice remains noticeably more open. Sergio Fajardo, who lost his position in the second round of 2018 against Petro himself by just 250,000 votes, maintains his leadership according to all polls. However, the gap with the second is notably less than in the case of the Historical Pact.
The sample sizes are also smaller, which adds uncertainty to these data. While more than a third of the probable voters this Sunday affirm that they will approach the positions with the intention of exercising suffrage in the left-wing consultation, less than 15% expect to do so for the center, according to the latest survey by the Invamer house . This paradox (more will vote in the one that decides less) is explained precisely because Petro has maintained a capacity for mobilization much greater than that of Fajardo in the last four years. Hence, citizens also understand the consultation as a way to maintain the relevance of the opposition leader.
This leaves Fajardo and the entire Esperanza Center in a delicate situation. The coalition’s internal pains have not helped. The departure of Ingrid Betancourt in January, considering that her fellow travelers were not ‘pure’ enough in the anti-corruption field, underlined the infighting and perhaps alienated useful voters who chose to assert their vote in terms of affirmation (with Petro). rather than choice.
A part of these votes that have come out have been paid by the candidates who lead the consultation, not just Fajardo. Also the leader of the New Liberalism Juan Manuel Galán and the former rector of the Universidad de Los Andes Alejandro Gaviria. However, the trends for these are contradictory between surveys, probably indicating that the small size of the current samples does not allow to anticipate results with precision. Similarly, the last-minute rise of Carlos Amaya is striking and goes in parallel with greater public recognition outside his party (Alianza Verde) and his region (Boyacá), but uncertain in his scope.
Fajardo therefore faces a much more uncertain scenario than the one Petro has before him, and at the same time less hopeful due to the lack of enthusiasm in the referendum that may elevate him as a candidate, but which will hardly signal the beginning of a road that is expected to be arduous until the first round of May.
Team for Colombia, between ‘Fico’ and Char
Two former mayors lead the consultation of the right, or of a part of it. The formation founded by former president Álvaro Uribe, Democratic Center, decided not to enter it, thus depriving the power and certainty of whoever is chosen. Be the former president of Medellín Federico phyco Gutiérrez (on the rise in the polls) or Alejandro Char from Barranquilla (down), when he comes out of this process he will have to sit down at least try to talk with Óscar Iván Zuluaga (right now, the CD’s presidential candidate) and probably also with the Uribe himself.
Neither of them will have a particularly difficult time getting along with the CD, at least programmatically (other issues, such as egos and power quotas, are separate). Nor with David Barguil, fourth in discord and leader of the traditional Conservative Party. Between both levels is Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, who has moved from his origins as a green center to star in advertisements with unsubtle masculine metaphors to defend his package in terms of security.
His campaign has not yet started, according to the evolution of the polls, and, except for surprise (plausible, given the low number of polls and the relatively small size of some samples), he will be left out of the closest race of the which will be played this Sunday. It is possible that Petro’s final rival will come out of it in the second round, if the current forecasts that favor the left-wing candidate are fulfilled, and if the center (with Fajardo or one of his rivals) fails to amplify the connection of his proposal with Colombian citizenship.
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