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Colombia’s 2022 Presidential election: An initial overview (from IKN657)

This was part of IKN657, out last Sunday. It’s still early days in the race to be next President of Colombia, but as the vote will be important for regional geopolitics and also the mining industry we ran this initial primer.

Colombia: A first overview of its 2022 Presidential election

First the dates and the rules: Colombia goes to the polls to elect its new President on May 29th, and in the highly likely scenario that no candidate gets 50% +1 vote, the run-off between the top two candidates happens on June 19th. The winner then gets four years in office, replacing current President Ivan Duque.

Though players are already in “pre-campaign” mode and touring the country, the race isn’t likely to begin in earnest before Colombia comes back from its January vacation season and things start getting hot after the selection processes for the candidates from the political left, centre and right. However, we already have something of a field appearing and as this election will be very important for the country, the South America region and for the mining sector in Colombia, today we mark your cards for the first time. Expect coverage to continue here at The IKN Weekly as the first half of 2022 unfolds but at this point, the coalitions of parties in each political bloc haven’t chosen which figure will lead them to the polls. In the case of the left wing and likely the centre we can be fairly sure, the right wing is more difficult to call today, but they will choose their person before too long and the field will then solidify. However, this election also has an emerging wild card candidate who has been making progress in early polls. Here’s a thumbnail on each corner:

To the left we have Gustavo Petro, who is a near-certainty to win the left wing coalition nomination. The runner-up in 2018, lefty Petro lost to Ivan Duque and even at this early stage, seems guaranteed to bag his place in the near-inevitable second round run-off for the next President of Colombia. His left-leaning ticket hasn’t changed much in style or substance in the last four years, but Colombia’s social unrest has moved the country towards his politics. Be warned, mining people, he has a clear anti-mining agenda and just this week was in Jericó, home to the AngloGold Ashanti Quebradona project, vowing not to allow mining to take place in the region.

In the centre we have Sergio Fajardo: In 2018 Fajardo came in third place in the first round of voting, just behind Petro. At that time he vowed never to run for President again but, in classic politico style, he’s up and running for the 2022 job and is clear favourite to win the Coalición Centro Esperanza (Centre Hope Coalition) nomination. Until recently second in early polling, he is well-known nationally and has his chances.

To the right it’s a more difficult call: There are plenty coalition parties, each with their candidate. At this point there are several in with a shout to be the right wing candidate on May 29th so at this stage, it’s better for us outsiders to consider the right wing vote as a bloc rather than behind a name. That said, this desk would very tentatively put forward Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, from the still powerful Alvaro Uribe’s party and losing candidate in the 2014 election, as the potential pick. Even if he isn’t the eventual choice, the winner of the internal coalition battle will be seen as the dauphin of current President Duque and there to move forward the same type of agenda. The fact that Duque is leaving as an unpopular President won’t help the right’s cause.

The wild card is Rodolfo Hernandez: Despite his age, he’ll be 77 next year, Hernandez is without doubt the wild card in this year’s election and is already shaking up the field with his populist, attention-grabbing style. A successful businessman in the housing and residential land sectors, specifically around his home region of Bucaramanga, Hernandez has vowed to make no pact or coalition with any other party (rare in Colombia) and even rarer, is funding his own campaign. So far he’s made lots of noise on classic political talking points such as corruption, security and migration, but his proposals are more difficult to pin down aside from an insistence that he is a capitalist through and through. If you had to compare him to a known entity, perhaps Ross Perot and his independent bid for the US Presidency comes to mind, but with a much sharper and polemic style modelled on recent populist politicians around the world (he has hired a couple of experienced Argentine publicists to run his campaign). He has recently risen to be a clear second in recent polling, but as the final field from the internal selection processes for the other candidates isn’t known yet that rise may be short-lived. Or perhaps not, as he is clearly resonating in a Colombia fed up with the same old same old political scene.

As for polling, early numbers have lefty Gustavo Petro in a clear lead with between 25% and 30% of national voter intention. Then comes wild card Hernandez on perhaps 13% to 15% after recently moving up. Behind those two is a big mix, with all other candidates under 10% but that will likely change once each coalition has its internal elections and picks its single candidate. There’s still a long way to go and we will have a clearer idea of the field and its potential in February or March.

1 Comment

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