Monday, May 31, 2010

Santos seems to pull it off

[UPDATE-S, and better writing] The first round of Colombia presidential election is over and we do get quite a few surprises.  Let's see by times in no particular order.

The result

Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe designated heir, gets 46.6%; Mockus the surprise challenger surprised us with a meager 21.5%, at "reporte 49" that accounted for 99% of all ballots cast.  a quick survey of the other candidates results show us that Santos needs only the votes of Noemi Sanin (6.1%) of the Conservative party, a natural ally, to reach 50%.  And the significant share of German Vargas of Cambio Radical (10.1%)  should also go to Santos, or at least half of them I would say.  In other words, except for some electoral surprise in the next three weeks, the question is not whether Santos will win the second round but whether he will reach a mandate like 60% of the vote.

Let's not forget that he is helped by two things: he won nation wide, only two departments escaped him for Mockus.  Even if some of the provincial victories were not that large, he won a national vote in total votes and in total areas even more than in votes.  Furthermore the vaunted strength of Mockus in the cities turned out to be a bust.  That the ticket was headed by the ex mayors of Bogota and Medellin did not stop Santos from taking these two cities by 40.3% and 41.7% respectively.  That Mockus was defeated by more than ten points in his alleged strongholds bodes very ill for the second round.

The winners

Of course, Juan Manuel Santos.  But the other winner is Uribe who was able to pass to Santos the bulk of his popularity.  Santos, for many reasons, was not able to cash in full the 70% where Uribe floats but one has the clear sense that had it not been because of the media frenzy over Mockus, he would have been elected on the first round.  Not surprising after all: the right won the legislative elections decisively three months ago, a fact that too many folks mesmerized by the Mockus phenomenon seemed to have forgotten by all but by your faithful blogger :)  Pretending blithely that the Colombian people would reverse their initial choice over two months just because Mockus was the international media darling was, well, silly.

The big, HUGE, loser

The opinion polls.  I am waiting with bated breath for the explanation on how supposed prestigious polling firms like IPSOS or Gallup predicted a technical tie for the first round, never mention earlier polls predicting that there was a possibility for Mockus to win on the first round.  Whoever paid for those polls should ask for a refund.  I mean, they not only were not close, they were dead wrong, anthology dead wrong!

Update1:Some pollsters bring as an excuse that they were not legally allowed to make polls in the last week.  I do not buy it because I do not know of cases where in one week a dead heat became a 2 to 1 victory!  That is, if one week ago Santos and Mockus were, say, 38 to 36, I can see that becoming 42 to 32, not 46 to 22!!  As far as I know no major blunder was committed by Mockus to account for such a drop!

The political losers

The traditional parties of Colombia.  The Liberal and Conservative votes have disappeared, absorbed by Santos and Mockus.  And it seems that each one was able to take votes from each of the historical Colombian parties.  The Polo, the leftist option, that never managed to decide to embrace fervently social democracy, seems to have suffered from a premature aging and was mauled by Mockus.  The Polo might be about to break up as a more leftist impatient fringe might want to embrace Chavez and what not.  But if the Liberal and Polo get together with Mockus to build a true civilian option they could create an interesting coalition that could have a better chance in 4 or 8 years.

What happened?

The mystery is why Juan Manuel Santos did so well.  I, for one, wrote as early as April 16 that Santos machinery would prevail in the end and that for Mockus to reach a 40% would be a great success.  Right now, it seems that Mockus will reach around 40% of the vote in the second round if votes of minor candidates are distributed as expected (OK, so I cannot resits that early pat on the back).  And yet, it was a stronger victory for Santos than we all expected, whether we were fooled by mickey mouse polls.

And yet there are surprises.  Mockus did not do as well as expect in urban centers but the only province he won is a rather rural one in the South, Putumayo, by better than his National average.  Santos certainly won in all provinces but one, but some of his hard core rural vote was not as big as anticipated (Uribe like Chavez found a way to secure the rural vote, without reason maybe, but they sure locked it up).

All in all, we should not be surprised.  Before the Mockus phenomenon we were expecting Santos with 30, Sanin with 20 and other pro Uribe groups with a 10 (the possibility of a second round between Sanin and Santos was seriously considered by some).  And this is in fact what happened, except the distribution was somewhat screwed up by the irruption of Mockus on the stage.  What probably happened is that the Colombian voters still remember how it was before Uribe, and Mockus failed to reassure them in that they would not go back to that era.  That is why Mockus did not get the vote he hoped to get in Urban centers, people sympathized with him but when they were face to face with the ballot they suddenly remembered that Santos had been very successful at trashing the FARC, they suddenly remembered that 8 years ago going to picnic drive in the country side was a major risk, they suddenly remembered that the actual act of voting was dangerous as you did not know which polling station would be blown off.

The Mockus effect was in fact the polarization of the anti Uribe vote.  As such paradoxically he favored the polarization of the pro Uribe vote that was divided in three factions.  To make sure that Santos made it to the second round many Colombians simply decided to vote for him as early as the first round vote.  That explains in part the collapse of the Sanin campaign: few were willing to take chances.

Update 2: the post mortems are nasty among the Liberals and the Conservatives as their candidates seem to have been abandoned by their party.  Hapless Sanin is a rather pathetic case, she did not get the vote she got for the primary which was an open one!

Update 3: it seems that another problem was an excess of debates.  Indeed the candidates debated tirelessly, at least compared to what happens in the US when we reach the post convention level.  Mockus was not very good in debates even if his thoughtful approach was appreciated by intellectuals.  But in a country most voters want rather a decision maker than someone agonizing over the right answer.  It seems that early debates allowed for a rise in the Mockus numbers while later debates were his undoing.


I have no advice to give to Mockus, not to mention this is about as much as I know about Colombia politics.  But if he does not want to make a fool of himself, if he wants to reach at least 35%, if he wants to get a shot at creating a viable alternative for the election 4 years from now, he needs to be clearer about what he admires about Uribe, he needs to be stronger in his anti FARC position and he needs to make sure he does not blunder anymore in respect to Chavez.  He should demonstrate that he understands that outside Colombia it is a big dangerous world where many countries want Colombia to fail, and I am not only talking of Venezuela or Ecuador, I am talking of Brazil.  Mockus should make it clear that he understands Colombia future is with the US alliance as a counterweight to Brazil.  The real enemy is not Chavez, it is Brazil imperial designs, one of the reasons they support a clown like Chavez who single handedly will secure for Brazil its  northern border if he gets his way.  But I digress.  At least that is how Mockus would get my vote  :)

PS1: Boy!  Am I glad that I wrote earlier that I would wait for the second round to make my choice!  Today I was counting how many of the Venezuelan intelligentsia had already gambled on Mockus just to find themselves with egg on their faces tonight: Petkoff, Socorro, Laureano and so many other including estimable blog colleagues.  Although I predicted and keep predicting a Santos victory to tell you the truth I have not chosen the one I like better.  Update4: a sour note in Tal Cual today complaining about the knee jerk reaction of too many in the Venezuelan opposition shamelessly linking Mockus to Chaevz.  True, but sour grapes nevertheless as Tal Cual all but officially endorsed Mockus.

PS2: I received a report that in Venezuela Colombians voted 68.8% in favor of Santos.  Chavez must be delighted as they will also vote in September in Venezuela......

PS3: I was watching Telesur and ViVe tonight for fun.  The "journalists" were trying to focus on the fraud reports.  Piedad Cordoba was reporting receiving hundred of notes on her Twitter account.  Well, maybe there was some fraud and some vote buying in some areas, but as far as I can tell nothing in the scale of what happens with Chavez here!  And even if indeed there were fraud results, so what?  Did Mockus not have enough supporters to monitor ballot counting in Bogota and Medellin?  If he lost there by more than 10 points, then indeed Santos won nation wide!  If fraud gives him an extra point or two it does not change anything and these journalists would do better to worry about the political implications of that result for Venezuela instead of trying to annul a result that they do not like with silly arguments that are of no concern for Colombians apparently (note: the legislative fraud of three months ago  is being duly investigated, just in case they did not noticed it, an investigation that never started for similar accusations here in Venezuela).

PS4:  And while they are in Colombia, Telesur and Vive journalists should inquire as to why with manual votes Colombia reported so fast while in Venezuela we need to wait for hours in spite of our automated system.  Update 5: they could also wonder about the amount of debates in Colombia compared to the ZERO amount of debate here in Venezuela when Chavez runs.


  1. giftzahn3:27 PM

    Talking about Brazil and Venezuela's roles in Latin America, here what Lula said in Israel, I think:

    “You can’t leave some one who is nuts on the loose” Brazilian Lula da Silva allegedly argued before the European Union insisting that is why “links with Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad must be maintained, to have him under control”.

    Lula da Silva then added that is why “Brazil keeps close links with Venezuela’s Chavez”.

    From here:

    P.S I don't seem to find more sources (known Media, anyways) to verify this..

  2. Yorugua3:27 PM

    Daniel, if i recall correctly, when Mokus first started to climb up in the polls you commented that "it was your type of candidate" and in your writings you did what you could to puff him up. This is a guy who said the he "admired President Chavez". You are still speculating as what he can do to be a force in future elections. What side are you on?

  3. yorugua

    i suggest that you read my blog more regularly. i have made more posts about mockus since the one you refer too.

  4. Anonymous6:04 PM

    I think it isn't so much that the polls were flat out wrong (which they probably were), but that Mockus spent the last 2 weeks before the election sticking his foot in his mouth every time he opened it.

    The little "I admire Chavez" blunder was just the most notorious one. He kept changing his position on every single issue and made himself look insecure and untrustworthy.

    Quite literally, Mockus chocked before the big game, and it became far too obvious for everyone that he was not ready to be president of a country like Colombia.

  5. 1979 Boat People8:35 PM

    It looks like that Santos is on his way to become the president and...Thugo WOULD KEEP HIS PROMISE to declare an ALL OUT WAR with Colombia soon.

  6. With the greatly improved situation in Colombia, both economically and in reference to the FARC,it is easy to forget that only 8 years ago the was a bad situation that has only been corrected through the efforts of Uribe.

    Colombians are wise not to experiment with attitudes that are similar to those that prevailed before Uribe.As long as Chavez is around, the FARC will remain on life support, and if any opening is given to them they will start a comeback.


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