Colombia’s voters would reject a pending peace deal with the FARC if a planned plebiscite were to be held today, according to the latest poll.
According to pollster Datexco, which has regularly polled Colombians about the ongoing peace talks, 34.1% of the polled electorate said they would reject the deal against 28.8% who would approve.
Another 27.1% of respondents said they would abstain from voting while 8.4% does not know what to choose.
The latest poll is the first in which Colombians explicitly reject the agreement made after complicated peace talks.
This is a major slap in the face for President Juan Manuel Santos who has been negotiating peace with the country’s largest and oldest guerrilla group for more than four years and who has promised no peace deal would take effect without a popular vote.
Santos on Wednesday presented the peace talks timeline for the coming weeks, which includes the FARC’s dissolution ahead of the plebiscite.
At the presentation, Santos failed to show a Plan B in the event the Colombian people reject the deal.
Colombia’s conservative opposition has long rejected the peace talks and on Wednesday announced the formal start of the campaign that seeks to sink a peace deal through a “No” vote.
The opposition camp, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, wants to send the government and the guerrillas back to the negotiation table and agree to harsher punishments for the FARC, which is accused of thousands of war crimes.
Both sides of the debate will only have a few weeks, maybe months, to convince public opinion.
The peace talks have faced staunch opposition from Uribe and his allies, and have widely been criticized by members of the public on social media.
Santos’ campaign is hindered by the president’s lack of popularity that has suffered over controversial concessions made to the FARC and ongoing social unrest in the country over the government’s economic policy.
Additionally, the government and allied mainstream media have vilified the guerrillas and simplified the conflict for decades, making it hard to reverse public opinion in the weeks leading up to the plebiscite.
If Colombians approve the peace deal, this will put an end to more than half a century of extreme violence between the FARC and the state.
But, if Colombians turn down the deal Santos will be disqualified to ratify it. Congress, however, could choose to ignore the public vote and push through the peace accord.
Both Colombia’s armed forces and the United Nations are preparing for a mass demobilization and disarmament of FARC fighters that could be stopped in its tracks if the electorate decides to sink the deal.