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The race to succeed Gustavo Petro as Mayor of Bogota is already under way, as 3 “big beasts” line up ahead of October 2015 election.

If Colombia’s top weekly publication Semana is to be believed, those throwing their hats in the ring are Clara Lopez, Rafael Pardo and Pacho Santos.

Perhaps left-wing Lopez who won 2 million votes in this year’s presidential election is the early favourite.

But Pacho Santos will claim March’s congressional elections (where his right-wing Centro Democratico made significant gains in the capital) show Bogota is ready to turn its back on a decade of left-wing mayors.

Meanwhile, “safe pair of hands” Mr Pardo, will hope his decades of ministerial experience and his more centrist politics will appeal to an electorate weary of the controversy that has engulfed successive mayors.

By sounding the starting gun on the campaign 13 months away from the vote, the early riders hope to deter other would be hopefuls from coming forward.

Colombia’s elite are desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2011 election when a crowded field split the centrist vote allowing firebrand outsider Petro to sneak to victory.

Given the volatility of Colombian politics it is far from clear this strategy will work.

What is certain is that whoever emerges must work fast to restore Bogotanos’ faith in their city. Gallup polls show the majority of the capital’s 8 million inhabitants are pessimistic about the future of their city – and that they have been so consistently since 2011.

Incumbent Mr Petro will struggle to welcome the arrival of these candidates. He will face opposition at every turn, and with increasing voracity as next October nears.

The truth is Mr Petro, throughout his troubled time in office, has been forced to spend more time defending his government than running the city. He has been impeached and then reinstated, been dragged through the courts and has had his policies overturned.

The real loser in the saga has been Bogota itself. As indeed she was during the alleged industrial scale corruption of the Samuel Moreno years, prior to Mr Petro.

Bogotanos must choose wisely next year. The city can ill afford another period of inertia or decline.

 

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Kevin Howlett

Kevin is a political consultant and lobbyist who cut his teeth working in the UK Parliament. He is a regular panelist on Colombian television, a political communication strategist and a university lecturer. Kevin is the founder and editor of Colombia Politics.