Colombia presidential runoff, 2014

Colombia held its presidential runoff today. Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos has been reelected by a margin of around five percentage points. (Live feed via El Espectador.)

For those keeping score of political alliances in Colombia, this means that the handpicked successor to former President Alvaro Uribe has defeated the challenger drafted by Uribe.

Santos is supported by the Party of the U[ribe]*, which led the congressional election in March with under 20% of the vote for both chambers. The challenger, Oscar Zuluaga, is supported by the Democratic Center, for which Uribe was elected a Senator in March, winning around 17% of the congressional vote.

Zuluaga had narrowly led the first round in late May, with 29.3% to 25.7% for Santos. The third place candidate, Marta Lucia Ramirez of the Conservative Party, with 15.5%, backed Zuluaga but most of her party members of congress backed Santos just a few days after the first round–yet another case of presidential candidates and their parties diverging.

Just behind the Conservative in the first round was Clara Lopez Obregon of the leftist Polo Democratico Alterantivo, with 15.2%. The Polo endorsed neither candidate in a statement released on 29 May. Nonetheless, they indicated in the statement their support for continuation of the peace process with the FARC guerrillas, which is about as close to endorsing Santos as they could come without actually saying so. Opposition to the negotiations was the main theme motivating Uribe’s break with Santos (who had been his Defense Minister), and Zuluaga had promised to set conditions so tough that the talks surely would have ended. The remaining candidate in the first round was former Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa of the Green Party. He too remained neutral in the runoff.

Just to emphasize further how long a shadow Uribe cast over this election, three of the five presidential candidates had served in Uribe’s cabinet.

* It is actually, in English, the Social Party of National Unity, but it is commonly known in Spanish is Paritdo de la U, with the “U” not so subtly signaling to was the party backing Uribe. But after Santos was elected, it remained the party supporting him even after Uribe formed an opposing party.

6 thoughts on “Colombia presidential runoff, 2014

  1. The Colombian media has actually taken to referring to Mr. Santos’ party as ‘Unidad Nacional,’ whereas in 2010 it was ‘la U’ or ‘Partido de la U.’ I don’t know if this is due to a change in usage by the party itself or if it was done independently by the press.

    • It would appear to me that it may have been Santos’ decision to move away from the ‘de la U’ to ‘Unidad Nacional.” While in 2010, the party’s logo was simply a large U, this year it was doves of peace with “Unidad Nacional” underneath, as can be seen here:

      It also appears that, at least in the articles written yesterday in El Tiempo, El Espectador, El Colombiano, El Heraldo, RCN Noticias, and Noticias Caracol, the press has uniformly called Santos’ party and alliance “Unidad Nacional.” I do not know when the transition of names happened, but I would suppose it occurred around the time Uribe established Centro Democrático.

    • After further reading, it appears that Unidad Nacional is the coalition, consisting of the Party of the U, Liberal Party, and Radical Change. This same alliance fought the 2010 election, and the Conservative Party was a member at that point.

      However, the difference in the relative emphasis given to the brands, from the “U” of Uribe in 2010 to doves of peace and “National Unity” in 2014 is quite striking.

      • Exactly: Unidad Nacional refers to the coalition of parties who supported Santos. It actually isn’t too unusual for a Colombian presidential candidate to have coalition backing and even to have it so referenced on the ballot (see, for example, Betancur in 1982 and Pastrana in 1994 and 1998). The labels do get tricky. Indeed, Uribe himself never ran officially under the La U label.

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