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On Sunday, May 29, a little less than 40 million people are called to elect the next Constitutional President of the Republic of Colombia. The list of candidates is long. We start with the Castro-Chavista and radical leftist, “El Cacas” Gustavo Petro, followed by the center-right candidate and former Mayor of Medellín, “Fico” Federico Gutierrez. On the center-left, there are mathematician Sergio Fajardo, the former Mayor of Bucaramanga Rodolfo Hernandez and finally former FARC hostage and erratic politician Ingrid Betancourt, among others.
But in general terms, the fight is divided. On one side, the former M19 guerrilla “El Cacas”, leader of the “Colombia Humana” party together with his running mate Francia Márquez, who formed a heterogeneous coalition of leftists called “Pacto Histórico” (Historical Pact). On the other hand, Civil Engineer “Fico” Gutiérrez, who comes from the ranks of the “Partido de la U” (Uribism), but currently leads his own grouping “Team for Colombia”, but who does not go alone, as he managed to bring together several political forces after the resignation of the candidacy of Óscar Iván Zuluaga of the official Democratic Center party, as well as the Conservative party, in addition to an alliance with the Liberal party.
In fact, they are two diametrically opposed proposals. Petro has developed his campaign clearly from the left, which is why some unsuspecting people predict him as the first leftist president of Colombia, which is not true. The neo-Granadian nation already experienced a government of this ideological leaning during Ernesto Samper Pizano and even with Juan Manuel Santos, who reached the Palacio de Nariño thanks to the Uribist platform of the Democratic Center, but his administration was markedly distant from the Uribist approach, i.e., he chose to grant impunity to the FARC narco-guerrillas through the implementation of a Peace Accord (by the way, overwhelmingly rejected by Colombians in the 2016 plebiscite) and even he was calling then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as “Colombia’s best friend.”
Petro has been a sharp critic of the great social problems and even historical evils of Colombian society, but his proposal to the country has been, so far, a lot of rhetoric. That is to say, extremely empty in terms of viable projects to be materialized in practice. Although it is true that Petro started his campaign with a great attraction of the majority of the electorate, in the last weeks he has been experiencing a marked tendency to stagnation.
The key to this situation is to understand that electoral favoritism for Petro was observed at the beginning of the campaign, however, at the dawn of the elections, we find that Petro’s greatest enemy has been himself. Beyond frequently appearing at his rallies and campaign events visibly high on drugs, Petro’s biggest mistake has been precisely his proposal of “social justice.”
Justice, which in plain language, meant the meeting of his own brother with corrupt convicts and drug traffickers in the prison of La Picota, after a first meeting of the same nature that his political partner and leader of the FARC party, former senator Piedad Córdova, held. This fact reached the media thanks to the skillful denunciation of Fico Gutiérrez, who has wisely squeezed the juice out of that orange, severely damaging Petro’s candidacy, since he has made it clear that the “justice of peace” is nothing more than impunity for the corrupt and drug traffickers, just as Santos did yesterday with the FARC, a situation that apparently does not have the support of the majority of the honest and hard-working Colombian people.
Despite all of this, Petro still leads in the polls. In January, the projection gave him a very wide advantage of 43%, compared to a distant second place for Fico with only 24%.
However, today the situation has become a technical tie. While Petro continues to lead with 43.1%, Fico Gutiérrez is on his heels with 40.1%. Beyond the accuracy of the numbers, what is evident is that with the passing of the campaign Petro has stagnated during the interval from January to May, while Fico has been able to agglutinate the intentions of votes scattered in the other candidacies and even capture them from center-left sectors at the expense of Fajardo.
Finally, I rule out the possibility of Petro winning in the first round as initially boasted, which will force him to a decisive runoff that will surely be against Fico Gutiérrez. Although it is true that all polls give Petro as a sure winner, a more detailed analysis of the behavior of the voting intention allows inferring that if Petro does not manage to seal the election this Sunday, it will imply a prolongation of the campaign where time has been his worst enemy, so I dare to point out that he does not have the victory assured in the second round, as some are quick to sing.
Nahem Reyes is a PhD in history from the Andrés Bello Catholix University and associate member of the American Studies Center of the Central University of Venezuela. // Nahem Reyes es doctor en Historia de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello y miembro asociado del Centro de Estudios de América de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.