Thursday, June 3, 2010

Could Colombia Elect a Green? - First Round Update

For the benefit of people I know who followed the story (as well as the fact that I finally was added to Liblogs), I thought I'd do an update of a post I had earlier about the prospects of Colombia's Green Party in taking the presidency in the beautiful yet war-torn country.

On May 30th, the first round was held, and despite many polls (in fact - all recent ones) showing a very close race between Party of the U/Government candidate Juan Manuel Santos and Green Party/Opposition candidate (and former Bogotá mayor) Antanas Mockus, Santos, who is running in the shadow of popular president Alvaro Uribe, simply ran away with the vote, yet falling short of the 50+1 percent mark needed to avoid a run off, as noted in the table below.

However, despite the fact that Mockus' support did not hold up to the 33-36% expected by the polls, he still managed to get into the run-off that will now be held between him and Santos, making him the default Opposition candidate.

But, before we get into that, its important to note how Colombia's parties organize themselves. Somewhat like France, most parties organize themselves under the label of "Government" and "Opposition" - aka, those who support the President and the governing party, and those that oppose it.

Right now, the current "Government" parties are as follows: Party of the U (which won the concurrent legislative elections, which I'll talk about right after); the Conservative Party; and the Radical Change party, all of which are centre-right (but not Republican or CPC right).

The Opposition is made up of the Liberal Party (the largest Opposition group in the legislature); the Alternative Democratic Pole (NDP in yellow); the Green Party; and maybe some others but they're inconsequential, since they have little to no support anyways.

In light of these facts, its not hard to draw a picture of what the second round might look like unless there is drastic change, because all three Government parties together have a hold on about 63% of the vote, while the Opposition commands only 35%. Not a good picture for Mockus. I'll make a prediction now, and say that Mockus loses the second round 60-40, and that's being generous.

But clearly, as the polls showed, there was some sort of surge for Mockus against Santos and the Government candidates. Many attribute this to the strong anti-corruption message that Mockus put forward, and how it connected to many voters who saw an effective but still very corrupt administration.

I'd have to agree with that, because if it were anything to do with the Green Party's environmental message, you'd have suspected it would show up in the legislative results - yet the Greens remain far below their rivals, garnering only 5 seats and 5% of the vote in the Senate, and 3 seats and 3% of the vote in the Chamber of Representatives. Impressive for a party created only a couple years ago, but nevertheless disappointing for them in some ways as well. Mockus seems to stand out by himself, rather than on the strength of his chosen party.

This brings me to a question I've been pondering, however: if Canada elected presidents, would smaller parties have a better chance at winning them?

I ask this because I've seen this now in three countries: Ireland, Germany, and now Colombia, and I'm sure many other states. In all three countries, much smaller parties in the legislature end up winning presidential elections, whether its Labour presidents in Ireland, FDP presidents in Germany, or whatever. It's not always necessarily consistent, but its enough to point to something, I think.

Is this because in presidential elections, the focus is more on the singular candidate? Is it the strength of individuals that pulls smaller parties through? Or is it just a weird protest/block move on the part of voters?


  1. As long as we don't elect one here I'm fine.

  2. Took the words right out of my, well, fingers.