Juan Manuel Santos, Antanas Mockus battling to become Colombia’s president

Juan Manuel Santos has been predicted as the winner of the presidential runoff election on June 20 by numerous polls. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)

Juan Manuel Santos has been predicted as the winner of the presidential runoff election on June 20 by numerous polls. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)

By Jon Gallo for Infosurhoy.com—18/06/2010

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Who will be Colombia’s next president?

The answer should be revealed on June 20, when Juan Manuel Santos of the ruling Partido de la U and Antanas Mockus of Partido Verde compete in a runoff election to replace outgoing president Álvaro Uribe.

Santos cruised to an easy win over Mockus in the first round of the election, earning 46.5% of the vote compared to Mockus’ 21.4%. Santos finished fewer than four points shy of securing the more than 50% of the vote needed to earn the presidency without heading to a runoff. But several polls released in the past week indicate Santos, a former defense minister under Uribe, will have no trouble defeating Mockus, 58, for a second time.

A Datexco poll predicts Santos, 58, will receive 65.1% of the vote, easily ahead of the 28% expected to be earned by Mockus. Datexco surveyed 1,937 eligible voters in 23 of the nation's 32 departments.

Meantime, Colombian daily El Tiempo reported 30 million are registered to vote and predicted 4.1% will abstain. But in the first round, when Santos earned 6.7 million votes to Mockus’ 3.1 million, the abstention level reached 51%, according to the Colombian daily El Espectador.

Santos also is ahead in two other polls. Invamer Gallup had Santos with 66.5% of the vote compared to Mockus’ 27.3%, and the Centro Nacional de Consultoría gave Santos 60.8% compared to Mockus’ 28.3%.

Mockus’ chances to gain on Santos were dealt a huge blow two weeks ago when Partido Verde and Polo Democrático Alternativo (PDA) could not come to an agreement regarding a platform that would have swung PDA supporters to vote for Mockus, a former two-time mayor of Bogotá.

“The Partido Verde rejected the agreement. The Partido Verde made the decision for its own defeat and it’s up to us to organize the opposition,” Sen. Gustavo Petro, a PDA leader, tweeted on June 4. Petro attributed the inability to reach an agreement to back Mockus to Enrique Peñalosa, a former Bogotá mayor who remains a leader in Partido Verde after failing to secure the party’s presidential nomination.

Peñalosa is too much aligned with Uribe’s policies, Petro said.

“The ‘Uribism’ of Peñalosa defeated Mockus,” Petro told EFE. “[The PDA] made its best effort to achieve unity of democracy in this difficult moment.”

Uribe, who took office in August 2002 and is prohibited by the Constitution from running for a third straight term, said it is imperative for Colombians to vote for Santos because he’ll maintain Uribe’s policies. Uribe has made tremendous strides against stopping drug trafficking and terrorist groups, specifically the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

“There are three important aspects ensuring prosperity of the country: security, investment promotion and social policy,” Uribe told reporters last month. “Let's take care of those achievements we have.”

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