Recent polling supports a likely runoff between Petro and Gutiérrez, and a victory by Petro
Following primaries in March, center-right presidential candidate Federico Gutiérrez has consolidated his position as the main opponent of leftist populist Gustavo Petro, while also securing support from Colombia’s traditional political parties. Some polls have also shown him closing the gap with Petro. However, we continue to expect Petro to ultimately win the 2022 election, with likely disruptions to the business environment. Low voter turnout, high disapproval ratings for the outgoing center-right government, and elevated economic anxiety exacerbated by inflation all undermine the candidacy of Gutiérrez. Clients should continue to plan for a likely Petro victory, with resulting heightened FX instability and dampened investment appetite.
Gutiérrez appeared to close the gap in multiple polls following primaries in March, securing support levels within the margin of error of those of Gustavo Petro. Gutiérrez also secured support from Colombia’s Conservative and Liberal parties as well as the ruling Centro Democratico party, as the political class rallies around his candidacy and against the Petro’s populist campaign. However, the latest polling, including a large CNC poll from April, shows that the spike in support may have been temporary, with runoff polling showing an 8% lead for Petro.
While Congressional elections revealed the continued power that traditional political parties have over Colombian politics, they have steadily lost sway over presidential elections in the past several years. Indeed, high levels of anti-establishment sentiment could even make their support a liability for Gutiérrez. Beyond polling fluctuations, Colombia’s current political and economic landscape favors Petro’s disruptive candidacy. Petro’s far-left policies are indeed outside of the mainstream of Colombian politics; however, he benefits from an enthusiastic base of support and broad anti-establishment sentiment in the electorate. Gutiérrez is also weighed down by representing continuity with a highly unpopular outgoing government, as well as high levels of economic anxiety and a broad sense by voters that the country is heading in the wrong direction. A path to victory exists for Gutiérrez, but it is contingent on damaging missteps by Petro, a rapid stabilization of inflation, and high voter turnout. The latter two developments remain unlikely to materialize.
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