Surge for Green Party in Colombian Election

Colombia's may 30 presidential election seemed like a foregone conclusion. Until a few weeks ago, Juan Manuel Santos, defense minister under President Álvaro Uribe from 2006 to mid-2009, held a crushing lead. That made sense: Santos played a key role in Uribe's brass-knuckle security policy, which transformed Colombia from a guerrilla-infested narcostate into a stable, prospering democracy.

But Santos didn't count on Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and ex-mayor of Bogotá. He hails from the fledgling Green Party, founded just last year, but the latest polls show him tied with Santos in the first round and beating him handily in the June 20 runoff. That may seem surprising, but Mockus is no amateur. Many Colombians now take peace and prosperity for granted: they want something more. Mockus woos centrists by promising law and order, while luring lefties with a New Age, pro-environment message. An outsider, he is also charming younger voters who have tired of Uribe's overbearing style, as evidenced by his (failed) bid to rewrite the Constitution to allow himself a third term. Mockus's rise suggests that Colombians are eager for measured change and a fresh face. Yet the Greens hold only eight of the Parliament's 268 seats. Mockus's real challenge may not be winning but governing.