After a heated and difficult election campaign, incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos clinched his second term in power, after gaining an advantage in the polls of some 800,000 votes over the right-wing Centro Democratico candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga.
An early lead by Zuluaga stalled when results from the Colombian capital began pouring in, showing clearly a marked difference and surge in popularity in the second round for Juan Manuel Santos among the Bogotá electorate.
During the last couple of weeks, candidate Santos focused much of his campaign on sealing key alliances with rural groups, left-wing organization, even earning the support of the POLO’s official candidate Clara López. The second round of elections were once again praised as one of the most peaceful in decades, and coming just 24 hours after the national team, after a 16 year absence, won their opening match against Greece 3 -0 in the FIFA Brazil 2014 Wold Cup, fueling a great sense of national pride. Political pundits were claiming that a team victory in the World Cup, could give incumbent Santos an additional 400,000 votes. Votes rooted in optimism for a future of peace and a peace process with both the FARC and ELN rebels by year’s end.
An hour after polls closed 4:00 pm (local time), 99,37% of all national votes had been counted by the state’s Registraduría office, with Santos accounting for 7,784,916 (50,90%) and Zuluaga 6,888,639 (45,04%). Zuluaga maintained his lead among voters in the department of Antioquia and coffee region.
At 5:30 pm. Oscar Iván Zuluaga with his vice-presidential running mate, economist Carlos Holmes Trujillo addressed supporters gathered in the capital’s main convention centre Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesdada and accepted their defeat at the polls. Conservative leader, Martha Lucía Rámirez, who achieved 3rd place during the first round May 25th, and who rallied her political base to support Zuluaga thanked the candidate for his solid and well-run campaign.
Santos supporers gathered in Bogotá’s north for the second-term president to arrive and address the nation. Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday May 25th had narrowly lost the first round to Óscar Iván Zuluaga. The candidates tried to frame their platforms among a weary electorate as choice between peace without impunity and peace over all other pressing national issues. The many endorsements Santos received during the last several weeks, managed to tip the electorate in his favor and in the customary fast vote counting that has become part of this nation’s political reality, Juan Manuel Santos will now have to deliver on many campaign promises, including a fast resolution with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to the country’s half-century old conflict.
By 9:00 pm with the Registry’s Bulletin No. 47 and 100% of all voting desks counted, Santos reached 7.816.986 votes (50,95%) over Zuluaga’s 6.905.001, or 45,00%.
And within hours of his victory, the phone calls started coming in from world leaders, throwing their support behind Santos, his peace offensive, and the negotiations talking place between FARC and a carefully- appointed team of negotiators in Havana, Cuba.
Santos took advantage of his victory speech to send a message to FARC and the smaller maoist ELN who this month formally entered into parallel peace talks with the government. “The demands aren’t only on the government. The message to FARC and ELN is clear. This is the end and we must reach this end seriously and determined.”
Juan Manuel Santos will be sworn in by Congress on August 7th, 2014.