12 Jun 2010

Mockus not quite a Green Party super-hero?

This is interesting but critical, I guess Mockus is not really my kind of green and he has been criticised on environment and justice, however I still think his rise is a spectacular good news story and I think he is an extremely interesting political figure. Colombia is famed for its corruption, violence and the use of death squads against workers and indigenous people...that's why Cameron and Obama support it....violate human rights in Latin America and you will be flavour of the month and get regular invites to the White House, did I mention Alan Garcia?....

Mockus: not quite man of the hour
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh, a journalist based in Bogotá, gives his interpretation of the surprising election results in a special piece for LAB.

Mockus: not quite man of the hour

The results of the first round of Colombia’s presidential elections were a bit of a surprise. Polls had placed Antanas Mockus, the Green presidential candidate, neck and neck with Uribe’s heir apparent, Juan Manuel Santos (pictured). In the end Santos got just over 46% of the vote, more than double the 21% obtained by Mockus, making it highly likely that the latter will become the next president of Colombia.

Mockus has an uphill, though not impossible, battle on his hands. The Colombian electorate is fickle and not very ideological. In the congressional elections last March the Greens obtained just over 530,000 votes, but 1.8 million voted in the ‘internal’ consultation to choose Mockus as the Green’s candidate and now more than three million voted for him in the presidential elections. The poor congressional election results can be explained partly by corruption and the buying of votes with cash payments or promises for schools, roads etc by other parties.

The presidential elections, too, are not immune to a little bit of vote rigging. According to Gustavo Petro, the candidate for the Polo Democrático, approximately one million dollars was spent on bribing voters in the first round, particularly on the Caribbean coast. It is a common practice, even in Bogotá where a vote goes for 10 to 15 dollars with lunch thrown in for good measure. However, Colombians tend to ignore local concerns and promises made when it comes to the presidential elections.

The crowds that gathered at Mockus’ post-electoral rally chanted “It can be done” and they are probably right – it is possible though not probable. The Conservatives have all but pledged their 4% to Santos, the Liberals are divided but the regional sections in Santander and Valle de Cauca have publicly stated they will support Santos, making it all but academic what Cambio Radical and the Polo decide. Mockus needs to convince a section of the more than 50% of the electorate that did not vote to turn out for him on June 20th.


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