The chances the Colombia’s voters will make history and elect the former member of a guerrilla group as president seem bigger than ever.
Petro lost the second round of the 2018 elections to President Ivan Duque after being dubbed the favorite in 2017, but considerably less support the progressive has now, according to polls.
Petro’s impressive lead
Petro’s “extreme centrist” opponents can count on the support of 12% of voters and is followed by Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez who has the support of 9%, according to Semana.
The Semana poll confirmed a poll held by Datexco earlier this month that also gave Petro a convincing lead over his political rivals.
What has changed since 2017?
The former rebel and former mayor of Bogota also kicked off the 2018 election race, but considerably less convincing that this year.
In Datexco’s February 2017 poll, Petro’s 12.9% initial lead was tight with Fajardo at 12.3% and former Vice-President German Vargas at 9.8%.
Duque didn’t enter the race until late 2017 and defeated his opposition rival, but has squandered public support for his administration since his election and could go into history as Colombia’s president ever.
The runner-up in the 2018 elections additionally is favored by the changing demographic profile of Colombia’s voters.
For the first time in history, the majority of the population that is eligible to vote received public education instead of education that was controlled by the Catholic Church.
Additionally, next year’s elections will see the participation of a generation of new voters who were spared the peak in guerrilla and paramilitary violence that battered Colombia in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Contrary to many old voters, younger generations seem hardly offended by Petro’s participation in the insurgency of the M-19, which demobilized in 1990.
Instead, a growing number a voters seem increasingly fed up with corruption and the fear-mongering of Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party.
The coalition formed around Fajardo has additionally agreed to refrain from stigmatizing the leading candidate’s coalition of student organizations, labor unions and ethnic minority groups.
Have Colombia’s traditional power houses collapsed?
Colombia’s elections were historically determined by two political parties, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, with the support of the “clans” of political dynasties and regional electoral barons.
The traditional parties and clans were instrumental in securing Duque’s victory in 2018 when they put their weight behind the protégé of far-right former President Alvaro Uribe.
These political powerhouses largely failed in the 2019 local elections that saw progressive anti-corruption candidates take power in the capital Bogota, and major cities like Medellin and Cali.
This is impeding the abuse of power to support candidates in next year’s presidential and congressional in Colombia’s biggest cities significantly more difficult.
The president and National Registrar Alexander Vega have been trying to ramp up budgets of regional allies amid concerns these funds could be used for illegal electoral purposes.
A failed attempt to postpone the elections earlier this month indicates that the traditional powerhouses are anything but confident about their ability to determine next year’s vote.
Meanwhile, Petro’s allies have expressed confidence they can make history and — with the support of Fajardo’s coalition — secure the first-ever victory of a former guerrilla in a presidential election.