Colombian center-right Duque alliance can win Presidency in first round

Center-right candidate Ivan Duque has soared in the polls since last week's primary election.

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The new Duque/Ramirez joint ticket has proved popular with voters (Archives).

According to the recent polls in Colombia’s presidential elections and forecasts, the center-right alliance, led by former presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana, and headed by a ticket of Iván Duque and Marta Lucía Ramírez, would get enough votes to win the presidency in the first round. Polls suggested Gustavo Petro’s left-wing party could not.

Duque has a significant lead over the ex-M-19 guerrilla member, Gustavo Petro, according to the results of the media survey conducted by Yanhaas on Tuesday. Duque’s favorability came in at 40%, while Petro trailed at 24%.

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This was also the main take away from the results of primary elections on March 11.

With the political scene today, Duque will be president in the first round.

– Francisco Barbosa

The center-right’s lead grows

The March primaries showed a strong electoral presence for the young Uribista politician; Duque won more than four million votes. This does not include the votes for Lucía Ramírez, now his vice presidential running-mate, or for ex-attorney Alejandro Ordoñez, who together accounted for an additional two million votes.

According to the lawyer and political analyst Francisco Barbosa, the six million votes the coalition as a whole received suggests “the right can win in the first round, bypassing a second. With the political scene today, Duque will be president in the first round.”

The center-right vote count could have been even larger considering that on election day some polling stations ran out of ballots. The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) reported that ballots ran out in cities such as Bogotá, Envigado, Barranquilla, Medellín, Montería, Zipaquirá, Cúcuta, Manizales, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Santa Marta, Cali, and Sincelejo. There same was reported in the U.S. based polling stations in Miami and Atlanta.

Lucía Ramírez has asked the conservatives to join the alliance, saying “join us again in this alliance with Dr. Ivan Duque so that we can win the Presidency of Colombia in the first round. The country needs to recover its values, and we must be a light that shines on the road of progress for Colombia.”

The Partido de la U is expected join the alliance; they are known as the political movement of national unity, and supported the government of President Juan Manuel Santos inCongress. It’s possible that this key player would return to its political origins and form alliances with Uribismo.

Partido de la U and the Conservative Party do not have their own presidential candidates but received around four million votes in Congressional elections.

Jorge Robledo, the leader of the leftist Polo Democratico movement, predicted the victory of the center-right candidate in the country with the possible support of former vice-president Germán Vargas Lleras and Juan Manuel Santos.

“Anyone who objectively analyzes the results of March 11 will have to recognize that Petro cannot beat Duque-Uribe in the second round, and much less so if they are backed by Vargas-Santos, as it appears they may be.”

The left’s turnout problem

Unlike the center-right primary, the referendum between Gustavo Petro and Carlos Caicedo, candidates for Social Inclusion for Peace, did not achieve the desired voter turnout.

Petro won slightly less than three million votes, while his rival, Caicedo, won a little over five hundred thousand votes.

Also, the ex-guerrilla fighter said that his legal team will initiate litigation against the national registrar Juan Carlos Galindo, for “not digitizing the data” of the primaries “as ordered by law.”

Petro has emphasized that his campaign won a moral victory against the center-right. On multiple occasions, he indicated that his poorly financed campaign managed to mobilize a considerable sum of votes without a political apparatus behind him. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan deputy of the Primero Justicia party, Rafael Ramírez, has made several complaints urging the Venezuelan authorities to investigate the possible campaign financing by Venezuelan regime of the Petro campaign.

Despite the fact that Petro led in the vote count for the left-wing primary, he has been rejected by other left-wing constituencies and is generally regarded as a “polarizing” figure on the political scene.

“Nobody in this country is going to forget that you supported Hugo Chávez the first time around. That until last year you defended Maduro. While the truth is that you have never said that Chávez is the most extraordinary leader, it was only last week that you were able to condemn him, and say in an interview that Chávez had been a dictator,” said Claudia López, Sergio Fajardo’s vice presidential candidate.

While Petro has called for the formation of a leftist political alliance around the moniker of “progressives,” he has been unsuccessful in that effort.

“For months I have seen again and again the folly of weakening ourselves by preventing the political center from converging with progressivism around social reforms. We have strengthened and the center has weakened. Will they repeat the same strategy or is it time to talk?” he argued.

On the other hand, the appointment of former Green Party representative, Ángela María Robledo, as the vice-presidential candidate of Colombia Humana, was controversial, since according to the Political Constitution and the legislation, Robledo would be beholden to two political parties.

According to Andrés Villamizar, Petro presents a candidate for the vice presidency that, by all accounts and according to all the constitutional experts, should be disqualified. “Why does he do it? To be able to continue his narrative of presenting himself as a victim. When they demand Robledo’s registration, he will denounce persecution,” he said.

A disorganized center

The Colombian political center has not been able to unite, despite the fact that most Colombian voters consider themselves centrists, according to a study by the Spanish newspaper El País.

The center is a large and coveted electoral block, as was demonstrated by the March primaries when at least 50% of voters chose neither Duque nor Petro.

Meanwhile, centrist candidate Juan Carlos Pinzón, former defense minister and former Colombian ambassador to the US, accepted the invitation of Germán Vargas Lleras to be his vice presidential candidate. When Pinzón decided to launch a candidacy, he distanced himself from President Santos and began to criticize the peace agreement with the FARC. For this reason, he never climbed in the polls, despite being one of the defense ministers who gets credit for some of the greatest military achievements in fighting both guerrilla groups and organized crime.

On the other hand, Antanas Mockus, the second most voted for senator in the country, last week called for a political union of the center-left, between Sergio Fajardo and the former chief negotiator of the government with the FARC, Humberto de La Calle. The alliance, however, did not come to fruition. The failure of this political mediation demonstrates a strong division within the different groups on the left, and their repeated attempt to distance themselves from Gustavo Petro.

De La Calle is prevented by law from forming alliances before the first round; if he resigns prior to that, the Liberal Party will forfeit USD $15,426,000. For this reason, the former negotiator said that he will proceed to the first round with his running mate, Clara López.

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