The election results further decrease the so-called “Petro risk” in Colombia, as they limit the government’s mandate even further. While the risk remains that the government will seek to pursue its agenda through unilateral action, the courts are likely to continue to hinder President Gustavo Petro’s initiatives. Firms should anticipate a decline in political risk in 2024, driving slightly more optimistic market conditions, including consumer confidence. Additionally, reduced country risk is likely to help bolster the COP, leading to slight appreciation in 2024.
Although a defeat of the government in the major cities was expected, it turned out to be much stronger than anticipated. In the four largest cities, government-affiliated candidates did not perform well. In Bogotá, the only city with a two-round voting system, Carlos Fernando Galán was elected in the first round with 49% of the votes. In Medellin, the country’s second-largest city, the former presidential candidate and Petro’s opponent secured 73% of the votes, well ahead of the government-affiliated candidate, who received only 10%. In Cali, the independent candidate Roberto Ortiz was elected with 40% of the votes. Finally, in Barranquilla, Colombia’s largest coastal city, Alejandro Char received 73% of the votes.
In the recent elections, the protest vote played a significant role, causing shifts in regions where the government held influence during presidential contests. Notably, this transformation was evident in key areas such as the nation’s capital, Bogotá, and the largest city in the southern part of Colombia, Cali. Historically considered strongholds of the Colombian left, these cities took a turn by favoring candidates critical of the government. In Bogotá, Petro’s candidate, Gustavo Bolivar, finished third and failed to secure a seat on the city council. Carlos Galán surpassed him by more than double the number of votes. Conversely, in Cali, the candidate from the Pacto Historico secured only 11% of the votes, while Ortiz emerged victorious with 40%. Once elected, these new majors openly expressed their rejection of government interference in their respective cities. It’s worth noting that Nariño, the country’s tenth most populous department, was one of the few areas where the president and the government party achieved a victory in the regional elections.
The government’s resounding defeat in this election leaves the country without a dominant party, but it is the government that suffers the most significant setback. Consequently, the government’s previously advocated reforms are now facing substantial limitations, as many congressmen and political parties are distancing themselves from Petro’s reform agenda. These elections communicate three critical messages to Petro’s government: (1) the government is facing a backlash for failing to meet the high expectations of the population; (2) there is a strong rejection of both the reforms and the government’s interference in regional affairs; and (3) the country is shifting away from the left on the political spectrum, bolstering traditional parties in these regional elections and positioning them for the 2026 presidential elections.
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