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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

As noted here on Sunday, the first round of the Colombian elections provided the expected outcome (a run-off between La U candidate Juan Manuel Santos and Green Party Candidate Antanas Mockus), but with an unexpected gap between the two (Santos emerged with more than twice Mockus’ vote when polling showed them neck-and-neck a week before voting).

A couple of initial observations:

1.  I always take polling in Colombia with at least a grain of salt, simply because there is the technology problem in rural areas versus urban ones, not to mention that parts of the country are sufficiently under the influence of violence as to build-in issues so as to call into question how efficaciously they can be sampled.  I tend to expect the urban areas to be over-sampled, which can skew the results as well.

This is not to say that polling in Colombia is worthless, just that it may not be as accurate as we would like it to be (I tend to take this view of all polling in developing countries).

2.  The polls were starting to trend in Santos’ direction going into the weekend before the elections.  Polling during the last week of the election is against the law in Colombia, so we do not have any numbers from that last week.

3.  The outcome is actually pretty close to what observers of Colombian politics would have expected, generically speaking, back when this process started.   Indeed, when Santos declared in late February, I noted “At the moment, I would predict that Santos will win in May, but that he will have to take it to the second round.”

4.  Mockus’ climb in the polls began, somewhat unexpectedly, with the addition of Sergio Fajardo to this ticket in April and his ability to be in first or second in the polls since then has been remarkable, leading many to expect a closer outcome this past Sunday.

5.  One advantage that Santos has always had is the political party machine of traditional Colombian politicians, and this, no doubt, helped quite a bit on Sunday.  Mockus utterly lacks that capacity.

Having said all of that, the numbers that are especially striking are those from Bogotá and Medellín for a variety of reasons.  If anything, one would have expected that the Mockus-Fajardo ticket would do well in the two cities, since each were very popular mayors from the respective cities in question.

However, if we look at Bogotá, the percentages aren’t all that different than the national figures:


Indeed, Mockus had only a roughly five point advantage in Bogotá versus the national numbers.  If the ticket can’t compete better than that on its home turf, it should be no surprise that it did as poorly as it did nationally.  Beyond that, those numbers don’t bode well for Mockus-Fajardo in the second round.

The numbers from Medellín are fairly similar to Bogotá’s

The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

5 Responses to “Mockus’ Unexpected Weakness”

  1. Fabian Says:

    Santos is at 47%, and gets the support of the other Uribistas. And still, there are people buying votes for him at 30-60.000 pesos all around the Caribbean coastline. Denouncing to the police doesn’t help, as they are watching without doing nothing. I am not saying that Santos buys the whole election, but he does so at least in parts of the country - just like Uribe did in 2002 and 2006, giving continuity to eight years of corruption.

  2. Will Says:


    What do you make of the OAS finding that there was no vote-buying on Sunday? I don't know how present they were on the costa, but 85 observers doesn't seem nearly sufficient to conclude that no vote-buying took place.

  3. Will Says:

    Here is the link:

  4. Viktor Ovurmind Says:

    I am not focused on Juan Manuel Santos as the next president of Columbia as much as I am observing how the political game is still played and if it will ever improve. Most books about “power” still point to Machiavelli et al rather than potential effects of the information age. Antanus Mockus does not appear to be business as usual but politicians are invariably do seem business as usual after they win.


  5. Fruits and Votes » Prof. Shugart's Blog » Second Round in Colombia Says:

    [...] Verde that I wrote for the first round. * A partial analysis of the first round’s outcome:  Mockus’ Unexpected Weakness. * Some thoughts on the electoral constellations heading into the second round:  Electoral [...]

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