World Bulletin / News Desk
Colombia’s incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos is just a few percentage points ahead of his closest rival Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, according to opinion polls released Tuesday, two months ahead of the first election round on May 25.
The separate polls, taken by the Centro Nacional de Consultoria and Cifras y Conceptos, show Santos, of the Social Party of National Unity (Party of the U), winning the first round of voting with 26 percent but losing the Voto en Blanco (defiance vote) with just 23 percent.
The Voto en Blanco or defiance vote is a blanket rejection of the traditional political parties in Colombia. Should the Voto en Blanco win the election, there will have to be new elections but under the constitution any candidate in the most recent election will be ineligible to run again.
It is too early to predict a clear winner but many rule out a mandate for new elections under the defiance vote, instead believing a second round of elections is inevitable. It is increasingly likely that any second round would be contested between President Santos and Green Party candidate Peñalosa with some suggesting that the latter, Bogota’s mayor from 1998-2001 and an internationally recognized urbanist, could be victorious.
Peñalosa is trailing in the first round of voting according to both opinion polls with 18 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. Another candidate, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, former President Alvaro Uribe’s protégé, now in charge of the newly formed Democratic Center party, is in distant third place unable to reach double figures in polls taken.
With talks underway between the government and the FARC guerrillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Havana, Cuba, President Santos has declared that any change in mandate “would be fatal” to the peace process.
President Santos has engaged in peace talks with FARC guerrillas since November 2012 and he has suggested that exploratory talks may be in the pipeline with the ELN guerrillas (National Liberation Army), the smaller of the two guerrilla groups who have been fighting the state for more than 50 years.
“None of the other presidential candidates have the minutest experience in peace processes,” Santos said.
President Santos is hoping to build on slim successes in the recent congressional and senate elections held last March, where his U Party came out marginally ahead of the Democratic Center party across the country.Last Mod: 02 Nisan 2014, 10:12