Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won re-election yesterday, in a vote that gives a boost to peace talks in Havana and provides him with a renewed mandate to push them forward.
According to the Registraduria’s vote count, Santos beat right -wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga 50.95 to 45 percent. The president has cast his victory as an endorsement of peace talks with guerrillas, as the Wall Street Journal reports, but the tight race highlights lingering doubts about the terms of peace negotiations, as the NYT notes.
Compared to the first round, in which the president came in second place with 3.2 million votes, Santos more than doubled his support on Sunday, with a total of 7.8 million votes. The abstention rate, which at 60 percent was unusually high in the first round, dropped to 53 percent on Sunday, a sign that concern over the future of peace talks led some who were previously indifferent to turn out in the second round.
In addition to winning over independents, one of the deciding factors in Santos’ win was his decision to build an alliance with the Colombian left, including most leaders of the opposition Polo Democratico and other smaller leftist parties, and campesino movements. Semana magazine notes that Santos’ supporters on the left make strange bedfellows with his allies among more traditional sectors of the political elite. It remains to be seen whether this unwieldy coalition will prove to be a broad front for the consolidation of peace or whether its diversity will bring bitter political disputes in the future.
In addition to managing these alliances, Santos will have to reckon with an empowered right-wing opposition led by his former boss, ex-President Alvaro Uribe. Even though the Uribe-backed Zuluaga lost, Uribismo has consolidated its role as the primary conservative political force in the country. After winning a legislative election in March Uribe will assume a Senate seat this Friday, and La Silla Vacia notes that he will be well positioned to use his podium to benefit his Centro Democratico party in provincial and local elections next year.
Uribe has already gone on the attack following Zuluaga’s loss. While the presidential contender nobly conceded his loss while congratulating Santos on his win, El Espectador reports that Uribe wasted no time in accusing the incumbent of committing massive fraud, including vote-buying and using illegal campaign funds. As the AP points out, Uribe presented no evidence for these claims and independent observers witnessed no proof of his allegations.
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