This past Sunday, Colombians voted for national legislators and in presidential primaries for those parties that opted to have a primary.
The primary in the Conservative Party is extremely close–and, yes, they do call it in Colombia a “voto finish”–with counting only partially complete. The result may not be known for days. As of Monday morning–the latest update as of now–there are only 404 votes (out of over 1.3 million so far) separating the two leading candidates. Noemi Sanin “leads” Andrés Felipe Arias. There are three other candidates in the race, and the nominee will be decided by plurality. The current standings of the candidates are Sanin 42.45%, Arias 42.42% (the next highest vote share is 8.6%).
More rules: it is an open primary; any voter may request a primary ballot and given that it is concurrent with the legislative election and that not all parties have primaries for presidential candidate, there may be quite a lot of other party voters participating.
Predictably, there is already speculation that the close contest could split the party. Given that the party, one of Latin America’s oldest, has split before (it was fragmented throughout the 1990s and only really got its act back together in the last election, 2006), this is not a threat to be taken lightly. Moreover, Sanin and Arias have rather different orientations. Sanin, running then under a different banner, competed against President Alvaro Uribe in 2002, whereas Arias is sometimes seen as even more “uribista” than the nominee of the party most closely associated with Uribe himelf, Juan Manuel Santos. (That party is known as “La U” to remind everyone of its fealty to President U himself.)
The other party to hold a presidential primary Sunday is the new Partido Verde, which had an interesting and entertaining contest among “The Three Tenors.” The Tenor most “alto” in votes was Antanas Mockus, with 52% (in preliminary results). Enrique Peñalosa, like Mockus a former mayor of Bogota, came in second with about 31%. Running third was Lucho Garzon with about 17%. (Garzon was a presidential candidate in 2002 as well as a one-time–you guessed it–mayor of the capital.)
I’ll analyze the legislative elections once the results are more complete. The big picture is clear, however: the various parties that were in Uribe’s coalition generally did well again, though perhaps not as well collectively as they did in 2006 (when Uribe won his second term). It appears that La U will have 27 Senate seats (out of 100, elected nationwide), which is a few less than in 2006, and the Conservatives will have about 22 or 23 (not much different from 2006).
This election represented the second use of the D’Hondt list-PR electoral system that replaced the former de-facto SNTV. (If you go down through the “Colombia” block to March, 2006, this is explained.)