Colombians will go to vote this Sunday with two ideas in mind. The first, draw the next Congress of the Republic. The second, define the presidential candidates of the three great coalitions. The leftist leader, Gustavo Petro, is the only one that both citizens and polls give as a sure winner. He has no rival. On the other hand, in the center and on the right, the result is unknown. The appointment will mark the start of the presidential race, whose first round will be held on May 29, and will shape the Chamber that will accompany the Government for the next four years.
Colombia arrives at the polls after two years marked by the coronavirus pandemic and social protests, which have intermittently shown in the streets their fed up with inequalities and a political class that they consider distant from the majority of citizens. The current president, Iván Duque, is nearing the end of his term with low approval ratings. His party, the Democratic Center, headed by former President Álvaro Uribe, faces the polls at its most critical moment, after two decades in power.
Everything indicates that Petro’s time has come. Some analysts predict that he could even win in the first round. For that he needs more than half of the votes. He would be the first candidate clearly identified with the governing left in the modern history of Colombia. Without a doubt, he is the most popular of all the contenders. At the same time, he is the politician who generates the most rejection, hence a second round could be detrimental to his interests. A all against Petroas it happened four years ago, can happen again.
His main rivals in the center and the right will be known this Sunday. In the center appears as favorite Sergio Fajardo, former mayor of Medellín, the third most voted in the presidential elections four years ago. His victory may be kryptonite for Petro. Fajardo, moderate, “lukewarm” according to his critics, can collect the votes of the center and the conservatives in a second round, despite the fact that he declares himself progressive. Juan Manuel Galán also has options in the central contest, according to the polls. He is the son of the candidate assassinated in 1989, Luis Carlos Galán, considered after his death as Colombia’s great lost opportunity in the midst of his most convulsive and violent years. The former rector of the Universidad de Los Andes Alejandro Gaviria, a solid academic who has generated a lot of enthusiasm in Bogotá and certain cultural elites in the country, could be the alternative, although his ability to shoot beyond the capital remains to be seen.
The right has suffered significant wear after decades in power. Uribismo has been on the decline, especially after the presidency of Duque. So much so that the candidates on the right have been very careful not to identify directly with Uribe. In the past it was a successful card, now more of a drag. That coalition is disputed by two former mayors, Federico Gutiérrez, known as Fico, and Álex Char, and the candidate of the Conservative Party, David Barguil, who, with the support of one of the great traditional parties, has been growing in the polls in recent weeks.
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Fico was alderman of Medellin, ended his government with good approval and has the approval of the business community. He will also garner votes from Uribismo, who have publicly opted in his favor instead of supporting their official candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who does not participate in the consultations of the right-wing coalition. Char belongs to a business and political clan from Barranquilla with enormous power in that city on the Atlantic. Corruption scandals have surrounded them and a former congresswoman involves them in a massive vote-buying in previous elections. Still, Char has done well in the polls. He does not give interviews or go to debates. All his communication is done through social networks, especially Tik Tok. He is the most mysterious character of all the presidential ones.
All eyes are now focused on the coalition primaries, which is the first time they have been held in this way, but the result of the Congress will be key to the future of the country in the coming years. Its distribution, through the Senate and the House of Representatives, can act as a key ally or an uncomfortable counterweight to the Executive. The result can lead to an extremely atomized Congress. In the heat of the discredit of the big traditional parties, new formations have been born, such as the women’s list We Are Ready —or old acronyms have been recovered—such as the New Liberalism of Galán or Oxígeno Verde of the politician kidnapped by the FARC Ingrid Betancourt. With so many names, acronyms and alliances that can emerge until the day of the main election, Colombia faces an uncertain political future. This Sunday the first step is taken to clear it.