Friday, March 4, 2011

Bogotá's Mayoral Campaign

Bogotá's mayoral election isn't until October, but candidates are already lining up. 

Enrique Peñalosa
The early leader has to be Enrique Peñalosa, who was mayor from 1998 to 2001 but lost a run in 2007 for another term to current mayor Samuel Moreno.

The only other declared candidate is Congressman David Luna, a one-time Peñalosa disciple.

Peñalosa, who is now with the Green Party, is generally remembered as an accomplished mayor who created the city's famous Transmilenio rapid bus system, expanded the city's parks and bike path network. But Peñalosa has a reputation as a lousy campaigner, which he fulfilled by losing to the smiling but unaccomplished Moreno. His political orientation is unusual - most of his ideas are progressive, yet he campaigns on a law-and-order platform and is allied with conservative ex-President Alvaro Uribe.

In fact, Uribe's backing has troubled Antanas Mockus, another leader of the Green Party, which was created last year but has no clear ideology - not even an environmentalist one.

David Luna
Luna, who switched from Peñalosa's Por el País que Soñamos political party to the Liberal Party, isn't such a big name. But his past association with Peñalosa could make him a spoiler candidate. Ironically, Luna's support for urban freeways and a metro line on the city's west side would promote urban sprawl, which is antithetical to Peñalosa's philosophy of promoting urban density with quality services.

Peñalosa is evidently honest, dedicated and has far-sighted ideas about transportation and city planning. But he's likely to disappoint as a campaigner. In his favor is the public's disgust with incumbent Mayor Samuel Moreno, who is deeply unpopular because of corruption allegations and slow-moving transit expansion work. (Ironically, perhaps, Peñalosa would have made the same expansion if he had won the election.)

There are lots of other potential candidates out there - but Peñalosa won't have to worry about the Polo Democratico, which has been politically crippled by infighting and corruption allegations.

Galan, son of assassinated presidential
candidate Luis Carlos Galan
Bogotá city councilman Carlos Fernando Galan threw his hat into the ring on March 3. He has one of the most famous last names in Colombian politics, but, at 33, is very young and his experience consists of only one term on the city council. In this interview, Galan sounds like a Peñalosista, advocating compact growth and mass transit.

In 2007, Peñalosa suffered from over confidence - a mistake he's not likely to repeat - and a perception that he's elitist. Maybe during this campaign he'll play tejo, get drunk at football games and vomit on the people in the next row. That should give him a 'man of the people' image. This time, too, Peñalosa has the backing of a political party - altho that party has already been strained by Uribe's support.

Yet, looming over the race is the possibility that ex-President Uribe himself will join the campaign. If he does, then all bets are off.

Wait and see. The campaign still has a long way to go.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

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