ELECTION SPELL: Ritual blessings by African-Colombians during the election campaign did not help Antanas Mockus to win the post of Colombia’s president.
VILNIUS - On June 20, Lithuanian-origin Antanas Mockus was defeated by the governing Social National Unity Party candidate Juan Manuel Santos in the final round of Colombia’s presidential elections. Santos received 69 percent of the votes while Green Party candidate Mockus got 28 percent. There was no big difference in essence between both candidates, but there was a significant difference in style. In his victory speech, Santos told Colombia’s leftist rebel group, FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), that their “time had run out.”
The presidential election was taken quite seriously in Colombia - the country’s borders were closed and all voters were searched by soldiers before entering the polling stations on the day of the election, while alcohol sale was banned as well. Some 350,000 soldiers protected the election calm.
Mockus’ defeat was predictable, though he still cherished his hopes for some miracle. “Actually, Antanas said that winning is not likely, but it is possible,” Margarita Arteaga, activist of the Antanas Mockus election campaign, told The Baltic Times on the eve of the presidential election day.
Vykintas Pugaciauskas, a reporter with Lithuanian public TV, went to Colombia to cover the presidential election from Bogota. He asked Mockus if he will run for the Colombian presidency for a fourth time. “The period of four years is a long one - it is difficult to say now,” Mockus answered.
Anyway, Mockus, who presented himself as “neither rightist, neither leftist” showed an impressive performance in the country of 45 million inhabitants, where 47 percent of people live below the poverty line. “He got more votes on this election day than the last four presidents of Lithuania combined,” Pugaciauskas said on Lithuanian public TV. Out of 12.5 million Colombians who attended the polling stations, some 3.5 million cast their votes for Mockus. At the beginning of the election campaign, only four percent of Colombians intended to vote for Mockus. According to him, Colombians are very tolerant people and the fact that he is lituano was not an obstacle during the election campaign.
A couple of weeks before the first round, public opinion surveys started to predict a victory for Mockus. However, Mockus’ idealistic openness about the necessity to raise taxes and unfortunate statement about the popular outgoing President Alvaro Uribe (who supported Santos) minimized Mockus’ chances. Mockus also did not hide that he is not a blind follower of the Catholic Church’s doctrine, although his language was full of Catholic theology’s vocabulary. During the election campaign, Santos was demonstratively attending church services - this could also have had some impact for the election results in the very Catholic country.
Lithuanians were interested in the Colombian elections mostly due to the Lithuanian origin of Mockus. In recent days, he was probably the best known Lithuanian worldwide. Pugaciauskas was impressed by the Lithuanian language of Mockus, who was born in Colombia and never had a long stay in Lithuania. “Mockus speaks Lithuanian slower than Spanish, but his Lithuanian is rich and his Lithuanian language’s constructions are sophisticated,” Pugaciauskas told The Baltic Times.