(*Yes, I was introduced to the show Glee this weekend, and yes this blog title is a play on that show)
On May 30 of this year Colombians will vote in a presidential election of epic proportions. Up until about six months ago, the race was not too exciting because many expected current president, Alvaro Uribe to be allowed to run for a third term. However, after the Colombian court rejected Uribe's referendum to change the Colombian constitution to allow for this, he gracefully withdrew from the race, thus opening the gates for a full fledged election. Uribe has been president now since 2002, so this will be a big change for Colombia, regardless of the outcome. Politics in any country are often dense and complicated, so here is a breakdown of the current situation.
The president is elected by popular vote to a four year term as the head of state. Past presidents are generally elected from one of the two dominant political parties in Colombia, although unlike the United States, third party candidates usually have a viable chance of being elected.
The Election Process
The first round of elections will take place throughout Colombia on May 30 when Colombians votes for one of 12 candidates. Colombian law mandates that in order to win a candidate must receive more than 50% of the overall vote. With the large number of candidates who run, this is typically difficult to achieve, so if necessary a second round of elections will be held on June 20. In the second round of elections only the top two candidates are allowed to run.
The Main Candidates
"Para seguir avanzando, Santos Presidente"
To continue moving forward, Santos for President.
- Partido de U - With Uribe out of the race, his defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos stepped up as the candidate for El Partido de U (The "U" Party - named for Uribe & for unity). According to his Colombia Reports profile, " Partido de la U candidate Juan Manuel Santos is a Colombian politician, journalist and economist, who comes from one of Colombia's most influential family dynasties. He is the great-nephew of former Colombian President Eduardo Santos, who was the owner of newspaper El Tiempo, and grandson of journalist Eduardo Santos. He is also the cousin of current Vice President Francisco Santos." Santos is the obvious choice for Colombians who support Uribe (most of them) and want to see his agenda followed fairly closely. Followers can read updates from the candidate on Twitter @UneteaSantos.
"Con educacion todo se puede"
With education, everything is possible.
- Partido Verde (Green Party) - After an initial primary between Enrique Penalosa, Antanas Mockus and Luis Garzon, three former mayors of Bogota and dubbed the "Three Stooges" by Colombian media, Mockus became the leading candidate for this party. In an article I read last week, Mockus was called "the Colombian Obama" for a number of reasons, including the man's "underdog" status (as described by the NY Times here), his "anti-politician" nature, his "outsider" status as someone who typically avoids the typically corrupt political scene of Latin America, and also his use of social media (Facebook and Twitter @AntanasMockus) to connect with voters. He believes that ideas win votes. As his Colombia Reports profile states, Mockus is known throughout Colombia for his unconventional tactics as Bogota's two term mayor. According to the NY Times article, "During his years of service, he dressed as a superhero to fight graffiti, soaped up in his skivvies on TV for water conservation and sent mimes into the capital's streets to chastise misbehaving motorists with a smile." He is also well known for a stunt he pulled as the National University president when he dropped his pants in order to gain the attention of unruly students. Whether you agree with these tactics or not, you have to admit the man is creative. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease earlier this month, Mockus is running a strong campaign that shows no signs of stopping.
"Con Noemi, Ganas Tu, Gana Colombia"
With Noemi, You win, Colombia Wins
- Partido Conservador - The Hillary to Mockus' Obama, Conservative Party candidate Noemi Sanin is currently in third place in recent polls. She is pushing heavily to be Colombia's first female president. Her Colombia Reports profile describes her as, "The third of 15 children, Conservative Party candidate Noemi Sanin is a Colombian businesswoman and politician who has served several terms as a Colombian Ambassador. This is the third time that Sanin has run for the presidency. Her critics accuse her with aligning with the government of the day." Followers can check in with her on Twitter @VamosconNoemi.
What's Happening Right Now?
In recent polls, as of Thursday, April 22, Mockus had a 50-44 percent second-round lead over former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos according to the Centro Nacional de Consultoria polling firm. If he does win, he will be the first Green Party candidate to be president of a country.
For updated information as the situation changes, check out the 2010 Elections section of Colombia Reports (Colombian news in English!). Also, this informative article entitled The Obama Administration and Colombia in 2010 does a fantastic job describing why the Colombian elections will be important worldwide, not just in Colombia.
Update (May 9, 2010)
The front page of the NY Times Global Edition discusses the upcoming elections in this article titled A Maverick Upends Colombian Politics.