Colombia’s Uribe favorite to become reelected next Sunday

Conservative Alvaro Uribe easily leads opinion polls one week ahead of the presidential election

As candidates closed campaigns over the weekend, Alvaro Uribe the incumbent conservative president of Colombia could earn a new term next Sunday, according to the last opinion polls released. If nothing surprising happens, 57 per cent of respondents would support the incumbent head of state in the election, while the best positioned competitor, the former Constitutional Court president Carlos Gaviria of the Democratic Independent Pole (PDI), would obtain only 19 percent of the ballots.

At this stage, observers believe that Uribe’s controversial reelection ambitions will be crowned on Sunday, with a stunning victory and his hard-line policy against armed rebel groups will be ratified. Following Uribe and Gaviria, are Organization of American States (OAS) ambassador Horacio Serpa of the Liberal Party (PL) with 15 per cent, and former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus of the Visionary Party (PV) with one per cent. Carlos Rincón of the Colombian Community and Communal Political Movement (MPCCC) and Enrique Parejo of Democratic Revival (RD) are also contending.

The campaign finished on Sunday with the better positioned candidates making their last attempts to convince voters. It was the first presidential race in more than 100 years in which an incumbent president participates as a candidate.

Mr. Gaviria addressed his followers in a massive mitin in Bogota’s central square. There, tens of thousands of supporters dressed in yellow, the colour of the Gaviria’s party, listened to their leader who promised to surprise Colombia on Sunday. “We will win in the first round”, he said to the crowd.

Mr. Serpa, from the traditional Liberal Party (PL), closed his campaign touring the 6 million capital Bogota under the slogan “I insist”. In declarations to the press, Serpa also defied opinion polls: “There will be a second round and I will be elected president of Colombia”, he said.

The political campaign lacked of debates among candidates and focused on the popularity of the president and his rivals. Uribe, who took office in August 2002 after winning the presidential election as a semi-independent candidate under the Colombia First (PC) banner with 53.1 per cent of all cast ballots, has a good image among the middle and upper classes. A constitutional amendment has allowed the head of state—who had been a member of the PL—to run for re-election.

On May 14, Álvaro Leyva of the National Conciliation Movement (MNR) withdrew his candidacy, declaring, "There is inequality and also danger. The fact that the president refused to debate with the other candidates has hurt the country."

The presidential election is scheduled for May 28. A candidate must receive more than 50 per cent of all cast ballots to avoid a second round.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov