Colombian presidential elections go to second round

BOGOTA - The Colombian presidential elections will go to a second round of voting on June 15 as no candidate won an outright majority Sunday, a day when an estimated 60 percent of the electorate stayed at home.

Oscar Ivan Zuluaga the Democratic Center candidate garnered the most votes winning an estimated 29.2 percent of votes compared to President Juan Manuel Santos of the National Party of Social Unity’s 25.6 percent. For Oscar Ivan Zuluaga that represented almost 500,000 votes more than President Juan Manuel Santos.

“The real winner is abstention,” said Kevin Howlett, director of Colombia Politics. “Fewer than half of the Colombian electorate turned out to vote.”

“Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, despite his scandals, appears on course to defeat a president supported by almost the entire political class and the nation’s main media outlets,” said Howlett.

Reports from across the country show that the elections took place with no significant upsets and no interference from either the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.

“The weakness of democracy in Colombia is shown today in the high levels of abstention,” echoed Silvia Mantilla, political theorist at the National University in Bogota. ”Less than half of the population exercised their right to vote and the electorate has returned politics to war.”

In a campaign that has been marred by scandals and intrigue, the surprise was that President Juan Manuel Santos was not able to capitalize on the on-going peace dialogues between the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government.

“Colombians are losing the war and it appears that their preference is that of exterminating the enemy,” said Monica Cabarcas a consultant for the International Organization for Migration.

The Conservative Party’s Marta Lucia Ramirez came in third and the Democratic Pole’s Clara Lopez narrowly behind.

President Juan Manuel Santos and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga will now focus their attentions on the second round of voting on June 15 when the next president will be elected.

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