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What Petro lacks to reach the presidency of Colombia | International

Candidate Gustavo Petro participates in a meeting this week.
Candidate Gustavo Petro participates in a meeting this week.DPA via Europa Press (Europa Press)

Right now there is no poll in Colombia that does not give Gustavo Petro first place. Those made in the last two weeks coincide not only in the order, but also in the distance that it takes from the second. He is about ten or eleven points ahead of ‘Fico’ Gutiérrez, his rival on the right. But all the polls also agree (since before, in fact) on the considerable distance that separates Petro from the presidency. Nobody gives it more than 37%, and the average is 35%. Without that 15% that is missing up to half plus one of the voters, which with the participation of the first round of 2018 would be equivalent to almost three million extra votes, there would be no victory.

The bell petrist He has insisted on several occasions on the possibility of winning in the first round, something that Colombia has not seen since Álvaro Uribe’s devastating results at the beginning of the millennium. But that extra 15% would have to come from somewhere in the seven weeks remaining until May 29. And the candidate’s growth rate has leveled off since early March. Apart from the 25% that is with Fico today, practically inaccessible to any left and even more so to the one represented by Gustavo Petro, its sources of potential growth are, in this order: currently undecided or undefined (almost 19%), voters of the centrist Sergio Fajardo (10%), of the populist Rodolfo Hernández (another 10%), and of minor candidates (2-3 additional points).

The undefined are not only the most abundant source but also the most obvious. But first you have to subtract from them a certain amount of possible final white, null or abstaining votes. For this, the average figure of the first rounds in 2014 and 2018 can be used: 5.6% between blanks and null. If we subtract it from that 19%, even if Petro managed to absorb the total indecision, it would not achieve the long-awaited victory in the first round, an unlikely hypothesis in any case.

Here it is necessary to make a methodological clarification: the surveys in Colombia are carried out among those people who are considered likely or very likely to vote. But it could happen that several of them decide to stay home that day. This is especially plausible in a polarized election for those who have not yet made a decision between the two poles. But even subtracting the entire undecided electorate (keeping that 5.6% white and null) and distributing the remaining votes proportionally, Petro would not reach more than 40% or 41%. This figure is similar to the one that would result from assuming that the undecided will end up being distributed proportionally to those who have already decided to vote.

Petro, therefore, needs to win the vote of the other candidates. Paradoxically, what can help him the most is the growth of his direct rival, something that is already taking place. Fico is managing to concentrate the entire right-wing vote, and he also aims to absorb the center (or at least the center-right) with decisions such as the definition of his vice-presidential formula. To the extent that Gutiérrez manages to grow, Petro will also make his argument that he is the only viable alternative to the conservative heritage of the current government more convincing.

But how much can he make of that remaining room that now seems to be shared between Fajardo, Hernández and Betancourt? This question is much more difficult to answer. The most prosaic way to approach it is by observing how Petro fared the last time he found himself in the position of absorbing someone else’s vote. It was in the second round of 2018. So he would stay with 41.8% of the votes. Interestingly, a figure very similar to the one derived from the simulation exercises of distribution of indecision previously carried out.

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The data to date coincide in indicating a ceiling for Gustavo Petro of around 42%, which he already obtained in 2018. The paradox is that the first round in its current dynamics is on the way to being almost like a mock final election due to growth de Gutiérrez, who is the main incentive for center or center-left voters to jump on Petro’s bandwagon. In other words, the polarizing dynamic favors the two relative extremes of the current political spectrum in Colombia, but until now when this has happened the balance has ended up tipping to the right. Thus, Petro’s opportunity could also be his sentence, unless he manages to break that ceiling that keeps him seven or eight points from the final goal.

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