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Colombia presidential elections: the rise of right-wing candidate Iván Duque

Colombian presidential elections will be held on 27 May. Among its candidates, a new-born star is rising with the right-wing candidate Iván Duque, a strong opponent to the peace agreement.

Iván Duque: future President of Colombia?

According to the latest poll from Polimétrica, run by Cifras & Conceptos earlier this month, right-wing candidate Iván Duque appears most likely to win the presidential election. Per the poll, 35.4% of the interviewees claimed they would vote for him while 24.6% would vote for the leftist candidate, Gustavo Petro, the second runner up in this election and former guerrilla member.

Furthermore, not only is he the candidate with the most favourable image (49%) for Colombian electors – a percentage up from 19% in January, but he has also seen the most steady increase of the intention of votes, from 8% in January to 22% in March – equalling the intentions to vote for Gustavo Petro at that time – to now lead the polls by far (see below graphic).

Colombia presidential poll

Political momentum: the peace agreement in trouble

The apparent success of the front runner for the presidential election could be partly explained by two factors: (i) opinion polls against the guerrillas’ agreement and ceasefire, and (ii) the recent arrest of a major FARC figure for drug crimes.

First, according to the poll mentioned above, most of interviewees disagree with the Havana peace deal that was signed by incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC members in 2012 (51%), as well as the pending negotiations with the other major rebel group of the country, the National Liberation Army (ELN) (56%). This is likely to play in favour for Iván Duque who also stands against the bilateral ceasefire that was agreed between the latest and the government.

Second, the surprising arrest on 9 April, by the US of one of the most important members of FARC, Seuxis Paucis Hernández Santrich, for drug crimes has put a strain on the peace deal. Santrich has been a major player in the negotiations of the Havana peace deal and was about to take a seat in Colombia’s congress – as contemplated by the accord.

Santrich was arrested after evidence found that he was going to sell 10 metric tons of cocaine, therefore he faces the threat of extradition to the US – a policy that has been strictly prohibited by the peace agreement, even though it only applies for crimes committed before its signature. This dilemma could spread fear among demobilized fighters who may think twice about trusting the government and the deal’s benefits.

Who is Iván Duque Márquez ?

Senator Iván Duque, 41, is the leader of the right-wing political party Centro Democrático. Previously, Duque worked as an adviser for the Treasury Department, from 1998-2002, and as a counsellor for the Inter-American Development Bank in the US for 8 years.

During the presidential campaign, Duque promised to enhance economic and social reforms. Most importantly, he has been a fervent opponent to the peace deal and advocates to modernize the Colombian armed forces to fight drug trafficking and criminal groups, such as the ELN and dissident FARC members.

Duque gained support among traditional right-wing sectors, as well as previous sympathisers of former president Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) – who led the “No” campaign on the peace referendum.

Among other points, Duque disagrees with the special justice put in place for guerrilla fighters as contemplated by the Havana agreement, in which he describes as a mockery and a symbol of impunity. Duque proposes a constitutional reform to ensure that drug trafficking is not eligible for impunity.

Outlook: significant changes for the peace deal likely if Duque wins

If and when, Iván Duque wins the upcoming presidential elections in May, according to the data he is on the right road to replace Santos. His win could likely weaken the Havana peace agreement that has partially managed to put an end to more than half a century of armed conflict.

In an interview with El País, Duque mentioned that if he wins, he does not intent to destroy or rip up the accords but to make significant changes to the elements that affect the rule of law. This could potentially lead former FARC members to join growing dissident groups, which would result in the renewal of attacks between militants and the government.

In the meantime, Duque’s leadership has been well received by investors who see in the right-wing candidate as a more business friendly advocate than leftist candidate Gustavo Petro for instance.

 

This article was first published on Global Risk Insights, and was written by Mathilde Tisserand.

 

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FPA Administrator

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