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Green Party Trounced in Colombia; Can We Blame the World Cup?

Categories: News
Colombians turned out to the polls yesterday -- well, a few of them did at least -- to choose a new president.

Thumbnail image for mockus5good.jpg
photo by Tim Elfrink
All the Mockus graffiti in Colombia couldn't bring home a win for Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus.
​Despite all the early promise shown by Green Party surprise Antanas Mockus -- he of the 700,000 Facebook fans and 52,000 Twitter followers and reams of enthusiastic street-art supporters --  the establishment won big yesterday.

Juan Manuel Santos, the defense minister under current president Alvaro Uribe, hauled in almost 70 percent of the vote in a runoff against Mockus to snatch the presidency for Uribe's center-right party.

There are a lot of reasons why Mockus couldn't turn his grassroots love into a win, but one unique narrative seems to be popping up in the daily news reports: the World Cup is to blame!

Here's the theory: All of Mockus' young supporters forgot about their favorite new political candidate as soon as the Jabulani hit the turf in South Africa.

Indeed, turnout for Sunday's runoff -- while Italy was drawing New Zealand and Brazil was destroying Ivory Coast -- was shockingly low compared to the initial election in May.

Alas, the blame-the-World Cup hypothesis disintegrates under closer inspection.

For one thing, the driving rainstorms that pelted most of Colombia's major cities all day yesterday probably kept more voters at home than the futbol.

And more importantly, Santos had already devastated Mockus during the first round of elections. Polls had showed the two candidates neck-and-neck before the vote, but Santos picked up almost 47 percent of that vote to Mockus's 21.5.

So the truth behind Santos's win is probably twofold.

Voters who fell in love with Mockus for his quirky tactics -- like hiring a mime troupe to shame drivers into obeying the laws in Bogota while mayor there -- eventually decided it wasn't worth risking their country's newfound security with a new face.

And even the young supporters who stayed behind Mockus likely decided after the first-round results that there was zero chance the Green Party wonder could surpass Santos in Sunday's runoff. So why not stay home to watch Brazil and down a few Aguilas?

Santos, for his part, has no small challenge ahead now that he's headed for the presidential palace. In case he'd forgotten that the war against the FARC is far from over, rebels killed at least 10 soldiers during yesterday's voting.

And the incoming president could hardly have a worse relationship with his neighbors. Ecuador has actually issued an arrest warrant for the new president over a 2008 raid into Ecuadorian territory to kill FARC leaders led by Santos.

And in the east, Hugo Chavez could hardly be a less welcoming friend to a U.S. ally like Santos.

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