(Bloomberg Opinion) — Colombia’s polls on Sunday made Federico “Fico” Gutierrez, a former conservative mayor of Medellin, the strongest contender for Gustavo Petro in the upcoming presidential election.
In Congress, the leftist parties, which include Petro, had their largest number of seats, but did not reach an absolute majority in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
Other key points:
The Colombian peso advanced slightly on Monday, a sign that markets have probably not priced in the possibility of Petro winning. Citigroup Inc. said it expects the peso to underperform as the May 29 presidential election approaches as nervousness grows among fund managers about the risks of a Petro presidency. His promises to end oil exploration and reform the central bank have unnerved some investors.
A center-right coalition could control around 42% of the Senate, according to an estimate by BTG Pactual. The left and its allies could potentially control around 36%. Those numbers provided checks and balances against radical proposals, but also limited the next president’s ability to rein in the deficit or fix long-standing problems with the pension and labor systems, economists at BTG Pactual wrote in a report.
While Gutiérrez strengthened his position and Petro cemented his position, the centrist coalition lost ground. Sergio Fajardo, a math teacher, won his polls, but only some 2.3 million voters participated, compared to 4.1 million for Gutiérrez and 5.8 million for Petro.
Petro’s Historic Pact coalition won 16 seats in the Senate, part of the strongest performance in the history of the left, said Thiago Vidal, head of political analysis at risk group Prospectiva. The Liberal Party, which won the most seats in the lower house and third in the Senate, will be a key power broker in forming majorities to pass legislation.
The candidates nominate their running mates in the coming days. Petro needs to decide whether to offer any position to Francia Márquez, an Afro-Colombian environmentalist and human rights defender who came second in the consultations. Márquez received more than 780,000 votes, more than Fajardo, but she was popular with people who had trouble voting for Petro anyway. Instead, she can try to find someone who will attract more undecided voters.
Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the candidate for President Iván Duque’s Democratic Center party, ended his presidential run on Monday and endorsed Gutiérrez. Other candidates still in the race who did not participate in the consultations include Rodolfo Hernández, a former mayor of a provincial city who says he eschews ties to traditional political elites, and Ingrid Betancourt, an environmentalist who was kidnapped by guerrillas. Marxist during his 2002 presidential campaign and was held captive in the jungle for six years.
“The results of the consultations are expected to increase uncertainty even more, not only because of the important support that Petro received, but because he has suspected the probability of a possible second round between the extreme left and the right, so it is a decision closed amid high polarization,” said Daniel Velandia, chief analyst at Credicorp Capital.
The electoral race in Colombia hardens as Petro’s allies win in Congress
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