Colombia's 2010 presidential candidates
Issued on: Modified:
Colombians will head to the polls on May 30 to elect a new president - FRANCE 24 takes a look at the leading candidates in the race for office.
Colombia’s May 30 presidential vote will be a tight contest between independent former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus, the Party of the U's Juan Manuel Santos, and Conservative Party candidate Noemi Sanin. Scroll down to read more about these candidates, the strengths they possess and the challenges they face.
Antanas Mockus, the anti-politician
Party: The Green Party (centrist)
Campaign slogan: “With education, everything is possible”
Bio: A mathematician, philosopher and former professor at the Universidad Nacional
in Bogota, Mockus made headlines in 1993 as a university president when he dropped his trousers and mooned a group of unruly students to gain their attention. Famous for his eccentric ideas, Mockus strolled around in a ‘Super Citizen’ suit, comprised of a red cape and yellow tights, to promote civic culture when he was mayor of Bogota. Mockus recently announced that he is suffering from early Parkinson's disease, a condition that he says would not affect his performance as president.
Strengths: The 58-year-old Mockus presents himself as a clean politician whose focus is on improving social welfare. He is credited with cutting crime rates and promoting civic culture during his two terms as mayor of Bogota. The centrist candidate along enjoys wide support among the business community for his market-friendly policies.
Weaknesses: Mockus is often criticised for confusing voters with his unclear proposals. His main challenge will be to present a campaign platform that the average Colombian can both understand and embrace. Little known outside Bogota, he will also have to reach out to rural voters and conservatives alike to defeat key candidate Juan Manuel Santos.
The Odds: Mockus’ clean government campaign is attracting voters looking for a change from traditional political parties, and his promises to tackle corruption and social problem have helped him climb up the polls.
On FaceBook: Four weeks before the elections, the centrist candidate’s page had more than 460,000 fans.
Juan Manuel Santos, the established politician
Party: The Party of the U (liberal conservative)
Campaign slogan: "To continue moving forward, Santos for President"
Bio: An economist, journalist and politician, Juan Manuel Santos comes from one of
the most influential families in the country. The Santos dynasty owns El Tiempo, Colombia's main newspaper. Juan Manuel, Uribe’s former defense minister and a finance minister in a previous government, was heavily involved in the current US-backed security policies that have helped Colombia escape its previous reputation for violence and chaos.
Strengths: Juan Manuel Santos’ U party is one of Colombia’s strongest political movements. Santos is unlikely to shift from Uribe’s hardline approach toward FARC rebels or his own free market approach to foreign investment.
Weaknesses: Some of Santos' military operations have been successful, but they have also generated controversy in the country and the region. Moreover, his popularity among ordinary Colombians has never been tested at the ballot box.
The Odds: Current polls show him in tight competition with centrist candidate Mockus. His party support and national reach would be an advantage in the event of a second round against Mockus, but recent polls suggest that Mockus would come out on top in this situation.
On Facebook: Santos page on Facebook has more than 85,000 fans.
Noemi Sanin, the female candidate
Party: The conservative party (right-wing)
Campaign slogan: “With Noemi, You win, Colombia Wins”
Bio: Businesswoman and politician, Noemi Sanin is a former minister of
communications (1983) and foreign minister (1991).
Strengths: A three-time presidential candidate, Sanin is an experienced politician at national level. Her Conservative Party has national reach and polled well in recent legislative elections.
Weaknesses: Sanin has failed to differentiate her campaign from those of her two main rivals. Sanin claims to be the heir to Uribe's security and pro-business legacy, while at the same time promising to focus more on social welfare.
The Odds: Polls show Sanin trailing behind Santos and Mockus. If she fails in the first round, those that voted for her will probably shift their support towards Santos, as pro-Uribe supporters rally against Mockus.
On Facebook: Four weeks before the elections, the candidate's page on Facebook had around 7,000 fans.
Gustavo Petro, ex-guerrilla
Party: The Alternative Democratic Pole
Slogan: ‘The Sure Change'
At 18 years of age Gustavo Petro joined the M-19 (or 19 April Movement), a left-wing intellectual guerrilla movement. M-19 achieved notoriety in 1985 when they attacked a Bogota courthouse with a tank, but eventually disbanded in 1990. Petro then joined the M-19 Democratic Alliance and various leftist movements, joining forces with the Democratic Pole in 2005. After M-19 Petro studied economics, and was elected to the Colombian Senate in 2006.
A seasoned politician and popular senator, Petro gained in opinion polls with his criticism of both Uribe (whom he accused of collusion with paramilitaries) and the FARC movement (which he compared to Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge). His program is geared towards social justice, including land reform in a country where two-thirds of the land is in the hands of 5% of the country’s farmholdings. Finally, Petro’s contempt for leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez – whom he recently called a "coward" - is a good thing in Colombia, where Chavez is widely disliked.
Weaknesses: The "worst-dressed candidate" label given to Petro by the pro-Uribe radio NCR probably won’t be taken too seriously by voters. But the fact that Gustavo Petro is an ex-guerrilla makes him rather unpopular with a section of public opinion, and the country doesn’t yet seem ready to elect a former member of a violent movement. Others fear that his election would anger Colombia’s powerful ally, the US.
His chances: Gustavo Petro’s Alternative Democratic Pole hasn’t shone in parliamentary elections in March 2010. His candidacy lacks a clear identity, between Antanas Mockus’s theme of renewal and Juan Santos’s Uribe-style continuity. Petro might become a victim of tactical voting, with many choosing Mockus in the first round to get him to beat the conservative Santos in the second. On the other hand, if Mockus does win, Petro could join a Green-centre-left coalition government.
On Facebook: Nearly 158,000 people support Petro’s candidature.