The parties in President Uribe’s coalition won governorships in less than half the country, and in only a few of the most populous departments. (Source: votebien.com, adding candidates from the Alas Equipo and “La ‘U’“parties.)
Colombia held municipal and departmental elections yesterday. The voting was mostly peaceful, though the past few months’ campaigning was quite violent, with dozens of attacks on candidates, the majority carried out by the FARC.
Here are a few notes about yesterday’s election results.
- President Ãlvaro Uribe and his supporters cannot be happy about the outcome.
Candidates from the pro-Uribe coalition got more votes than any other single party, but failed to win the mayorships of Colombia’s three largest cities. Pro-Uribe party candidates won about 15 of 32 governorships, and the mayor’s offices of about 14 of 32 departmental capitals.
- Independent candidates did well.
The term refers to candidates from neither the Uribista coalition nor either of the two main opposition parties (the Liberals and the Alternative Democratic Pole). Candidates from small, usually locally focused, political movements – many of them from the left – scored some key victories.
In MedellÃn Alonso Salazar, an expert on violence and gang activity who served as Secretario del Gobierno (similar to deputy mayor) under popular Mayor Sergio Fajardo, came from behind in the polls to defeat former mayor Luis PÃ©rez by a comfortable margin. Salazar, from the same small independent left-of-center political movement as Fajardo, was polling in the single digits a few months ago, while PÃ©rez had locked up the support of MedellÃn’s traditional politicians and much of its business community. Though not the most charismatic campaigner, Salazar was helped by his association with Fajardo and by a wide range of endorsements – from the pop singer Juanes to President Uribe’s wife Lina Moreno.
In Cali Jorge IvÃ¡n Ospina, another candidate from a small left-of-center political group, surprised many by beating Francisco Lloreda, scion of one of the city’s oldest and wealthiest families. The 39-year-old mayor-elect is the son of an M-19 leader killed in combat in the mid-1980s.
Colombia’s traditional parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, had a hard time in Colombia’s cities. They remain quite strong in rural areas, though, judging from mayoral results in rural municipalities and gubernatorial results in more rural departments. The Liberals won nine departmental governorships (out of 32) and about 200 mostly rural municipalities (out of about 1,100); the Conservatives – part of the pro-Uribe coalition – took three governorships and about 200 mostly” rural municipalities.
- The “united left” did reasonably well, but showed its weaknesses.
Colombia’s united left opposition party, the Alternative Democratic Pole, held onto the BogotÃ¡ mayor’s seat, which is often referred to as the second-most powerful position in the country. Samuel Moreno, with a come-from behind victory, beat former mayor Enrique PeÃ±alosa, who was President Uribe’s choice. Moreno succeeds popular Alternative Democratic Pole mayor Luis Eduardo GarzÃ³n. Though GarzÃ³n did not support Moreno in their party’s primary election – the outgoing mayor is more politically moderate than Moreno – his high approval ratings (consistently over 60 percent) gave the candidate a boost.
In the days before the election, President Uribe gave Moreno a great political gift. On several occasions the president urged voters not to support Moreno and the Alternative Democratic Pole by implying that the party was tied to the FARC. On a visit to the Caribbean coast town of Algarrobo, Magdalena last Thursday, Uribe said, “Today Algarrobo speaks to BogotÃ¡. May they not make the mistake there … of electing mayors supported by the guerrillas who also buy votes.” Uribe made similar statements on Friday and Saturday, and had his ministers of interior and defense do the same.