In the midst of the latest Middle East crisis, not a lot of global attention was given to the outcome of Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday. The results showed that the pre-election polls were completely wrong. Instead of a neck-and-neck race, Juan Manuel Santos, the heir-apparent to outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, received more than twice as many votes as his vaunted rival, Antanas Mockus, and fell just short of wrapping it up in the first round of voting.
For what it’s worth, I never believed Mockus, the philosopher/mathematician, stood a chance. He was an innovative and creative executive as mayor of Bogota. But although he might have been the right president for Finland, he wasn’t the right fit for a conflict-ridden country like Colombia.
The election results are a warning to be skeptical of polls, especially in complicated countries. They also remind us of the perils of becoming trapped in the echo chamber. People in Bogota may have wanted their old mayor in the president’s palace — and most of the journalists reported from Bogota. In the countryside, where the war has destroyed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people, the Mockus experiment was much too risky.