(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Former defence minister Juan Manuel Santos is leading the race to become the next president of Colombia, according to a poll by Ipsos Napoleón Franco. 36 per cent of respondents would vote for Santos of the U Party (U) in next month’s election.

Noemí Sanín of the Conservative Party (PC) is second with 17 per cent, followed by Antanas Mockus of the Green Party (PV) with nine per cent, Germán Vargas Lleras of Radical Change (CR) with eight per cent, Gustavo Petro of the Democratic Pole (PD) with six per cent, independent candidate Sergio Fajardo with four per cent, and Rafael Pardo of the Liberal Party (PL) with four per cent. Jairo Enrique Calderón of Liberal Aperture (AL) is last with one per cent.

In two run-off scenarios, Santos is ahead of Sanín and Mockus by about 10 points.

Álvaro Uribe has been Colombia’s president since August 2002. In the May 2006 election, he won a new four-year term with 62.2 per cent of all cast ballots. He was able to run again after pro-Uribe lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Constitutional Court officially sanctioned a plan to allow immediate presidential re-election. After issuing its ruling, the court warned that the clause was not valid for the unlimited re-election of the head of state.

A group of Uribe supporters gathered enough signatures to call a nationwide referendum on whether the current president should be allowed to run for re-election again this year. In September 2009, Congress approved the referendum bill in a late-night vote boycotted by members of the opposition. In February 2010, the Constitutional Court voted 7-2 against the referendum proposal. Uribe said he "accepted" and "respected" the court’s decision.

Immediately after the ruling, Santos confirmed that he would become a presidential candidate for the U Party, which borrows his name from the first letter of the current president’s name.

On Mar. 14, Colombians voted in legislative elections. The U Party garnered the most votes, followed by the pro-Uribe Conservatives and the opposition Liberals.

The PC has supported the Uribe administration since the beginning of his first term. The party did not nominate a candidate to stand against Uribe in the 2006 election. However, this time the PC has Sanín standing against Santos, who is running on a platform of continuing with Uribe’s policies.

On Mar. 31, Santos admitted that him and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez are "like water and oil," but promised to "do everything possible to maintain the best relations" with Venezuela if elected.

The next presidential election is scheduled for May 30. If no candidate garners more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off must take place.

Polling Data

If the presidential election were held tomorrow and these were the candidates, which one of them would you vote for?

Juan Manuel Santos (U)

36%

Noemí Sanín (PC)

17%

Antanas Mockus (PV)

9%

Germán Vargas Lleras (CR)

8%

Gustavo Petro (PD)

6%

Sergio Fajardo (Ind.)

5%

Rafael Pardo (PL)

4%

Jairo Enrique Calderón (AL)

1%

Other / Blank vote

4%

Undecided

11%

Run-off scenarios

Juan Manuel Santos (U) 44% – 30% Noemí Sanín (PC)
Juan Manuel Santos (U) 49% – 29% Antanas Mockus (PV)

Source: Ipsos Napoleón Franco
Methodology: Face-to-face interviews with 1,202 Colombian adults in six Colombian regions, conducted on Mar. 24 and Mar. 25, 2010. Margin of error is 2.9 per cent.