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Beautiful Father's Day day here in Pennsylvania, and as I went about my business I kept wondering when I was going to find a few minutes to post my Colombian election summary.  How messed up is that?

It's going to take me way more time to do this diary than it took for Colombia's electoral board to declare Juan Manuel Santos the winner over Antanas Mockus once the polls closed at 4:00 in Colombia (CDT here).  They promised to report a winner in under two hours but fifteen minutes was sufficient.  In part that's because they have a remarkable system for tallying, reporting, and aggregating votes (and yes, it's actually fair) and in part it's because most Colombians live in large cities, but mostly it's because Santos got 69% of the vote.  Neoliberalism and obsession with security are more popular in Colombia than they are on Daily Kos.

My past diaries, where you can go from semi-euphoria to despair if you're a typical progressive:

Pre-first-round edition (humanist antipolitics will kick butt!)

Pre-second-round edition (at least humanist antipolitics made it to the second round!)

Mockus's consolation prize is that he at least predicted the number of votes he'd need to win: after he finished much farther behind Santos than he expected in the first round of voting on May 30, he called on his supporters to bring in (for the second round) one abstentionist and one person who voted for one of the eliminated candidates.  If he could get to 9,000,000 votes, he'd win.  And he was right!  Well, at least within the margin of error: as of this moment, Santos has 9,003,741 votes.  Problem is, Mockus only has 3,588,183 which means he only picked up around 400,000 votes from first to second round.  

It's impressive, if you set the threshold for being impressed relatively low, that Mockus picked up any votes at all since May 30.  He didn't win the endorsement of any of the previously eliminated candidates, after killing any chances by swearing off wider alliances.  He might have won the grudging endorsement of the leftist Polo Democratico, but he said unnecessarily harsh things about them during the campaign and gave equivocal answers to their post-election conditions; their voters stayed home or (presumably) provided those 4% of blank votes today.  Meanwhile, even though the Liberals' de facto party leader Cesar Gaviria (former president) spent most of the three weeks in a public shouting match with Uribe ("What's disgusting here is you and your government!"--no joke, that's Gaviria hanging up the phone with Uribe last week.), the party ended up making no endorsement while its leaders, even Gaviria, personally endorsed Santos.  (Mockus won the endorsement of the Liberals' VP candidate, but that wasn't worth anything.)  

Mockus's only hope was that Santos supporters would all decide the deal was done, and they'd stay home and watch World Cup soccer.  A lot of them did, and abstention was higher today than it was on May 30.  Considering the much wider range of options available to voters the first time around, and the justified sense that Santos would win regardless, it's impressive that 13 million people went out to vote--there was nothing else on the ballot so that's 13 million people who took their democratic obligations more seriously than some political scientists would predict.

Staying with Mockus for a minute, it's pretty cool that 28% of voters were eager to get out of bed to vote (pointlessly, in outcome terms) for someone with an odd name--Colombia isn't a country of immigrants--and an odd conception of politics, and an odd diagnosis of Colombia's problems.  Colombia has a decent-sized middle class, and a lot of people who've completed high school or gone to college, but 3.5 million votes vs. an establishment candidate means you are winning plenty of support from poor people and country people who see what you're trying to accomplish and they're into it.  Mockus actually did best in the far southwest of the country, which is more heavily indigenous and rural.  He even won the semi-frontier department of Putumayo.

Santos represents a pure continuation of the substance of Alvaro Uribe's emphases and policies.  Contrary to popular belief Santos did have a career of note before Uribe, but he's only president (and was only "presidentable," as the Colombian neologism puts it) because of his work as Uribe's foreign trade and then defence minister.  (He was also a very sound finance minister under Andres Pastrana but people tend not to boast about their work in the reviled Pastrana administration.)  His main difference with Uribe is one of temperament, partly rooted in their respective origins.  Uribe is from a ranching family where you get your way by telling people what to do (after all, they're your ranch hands), and where your nemeses are pointy-headed intellectuals from the big city.  As a practical matter Uribe had to go to Medellin and get a law degree (then as now one of the few entrance-level credentials for the Colombian establishment), but his heart wasn't in it and for eight years he's demonstrated every day that while he loved ruling, he didn't have much regard for most bureaucrats and (especially) judges.  This was, in fact, part of his popularity since most Colombians hate bureaucrats and judges as well.  Santos, on the other hand, is from the quintessential urban media-and-politics-and-administration family and while he's happy to ignore the finer points of law (e.g. when he persuaded Uribe to sign off on attacking Colombian guerrilla bases in Ecuador) he doesn't have a cultural issue with legalism.  

(As an aside, Mockus's fatal contradiction was that he was vocally obsessed with legality and legalism in a country where most people don't trust judges and the law, which made for insoluble chicken-and-egg problems. When for instance (to cite real cases just from this past week), the same judge frees a gang leader not once but twice, or when a judge in a totally unrelated court reinstates a governor just in time to stave off a special election, what would Mockus do?  Uribe attacks the judges and tries to do and end-run around their decisions, but to Mockus that only exacerbates the problem.  And he's right, but it's a justifiably scary idea to many Colombians that you have to venerate corrupt judges today in order to get to a corruption-free society tomorrow.)

UPDATE: I pressed the wrong button and submitted the diary at this point (we really need a fail-safe about that, Markos!) so this is new content!

The upcoming Santos regime will mean more security-first when it comes to spending, which is interesting in that Uribe lusted after security enough to raise taxes on the wealthy repeatedly, via surtaxes on bank deposits.  Santos cares more about the economy, or at least he says he does, so he may have some decisions to make about military spending vs. letting those surtaxes lapse.  Chavez claims to hate Santos just as much as Uribe, but Chavez also knows that four or eight years is a long time and at some point the base-rallying benefits of making Colombia your bogeyman are outweighed by the everyday problems of not having a trading partner who's way bigger than you are.  There's an arrest warrant out for Santos in Ecuador because of the attack on FARC's bases there, but Correa has made it clear that he respects international law (and with it, the immunity of presidents) over the desires of local judges.  While Obama and Clinton probably would have found Mockus a fun and engaging guy, given the narrow focus through which they see Colombia it's obvious that they will be overjoyed with Santos.  In many ways he's like Hillary Clinton--wonkish, iron will, all that stuff.

Maybe the biggest difference with the last few years is that Santos is, like Obama, a no-drama guy.  I doubt we'll ever see him flip out like Uribe, against former presidents or current judges or foreign NGOs.  And Santos has the kind of legislative majority that Uribe at his peak, circa 2005, could only fantasize about.  So at least for the foreseeable future it's Santos's world and everyone else is just living in it.

Originally posted to Rich in PA on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 05:47 PM PDT.

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