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Santos Wins Convincingly in Colombia

After an exciting election campaign that saw the emergence of serious centrist contender for the presidency in Colombia, former Defense minister Juan Manuel Santos yesterday won a convincing run-off with 69.1 percent of the vote to challenger Antanas Mockus’ 27.5 percent.

The overall result was no surprise, given Santos’ strong showing in the first round of the voting, where he 46.6 percent to Mockus’ 21.5 percent. However, the increase in Mockus’ share of the votes in the second round was less than expected. When we analyzed this run-off after the first round of voting, we did it under the assumption that there would be no drop off in turn-out.

In fact (and this should have been expected), about 1.7 million voters who showed up for the first round decided not to vote for the run-off.

Using the basic ideology of the candidates who were knocked out of the first round to allocate their first round supporters to either Santos or Mockus, we expected Santos to pick up about 1.7 more million votes, and Mockus to earn 2.6 million more votes.

In fact, Santos pulled half a million more than that, for a total improvement of 2.2 million votes, while Mockus picked up just half a million votes. We can guess that the vast majority of the 1.7 who did not vote in the second round were expected Mockus supporters who sensed the futility of the run-off, given Santos domination of the first round. At the same time, we likely underestimated the percentage of Lleras supporters who would switch to Santos, which would net Santos another half million to a million voters.

In the end, though initial polling suggested that the establishment was going to be tested, the security-first approach of Santos — carrying forth the Uribe banner — continues to broadly resound with the Colombian populace.

Renard Sexton is FiveThirtyEight’s international affairs columnist and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. He can be contacted at