By Sylvia B. Zárate
BOGOTA, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The former mayors of Bogota, Gustavo Petro, Medellin and Sergio Fajardo, are leading the list of candidates to win Colombia's presidential elections in May and June, according to a January poll by La Gran Encuesta.
However, several analysts believe that with the elections still several months away, it is too early to predict who will replace President Juan Manuel Santos, who took the position since 2010.
In an interview with Xinhua, Angelica Bernal, director of the department of political sciences and international relations of Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, said while polls are reflecting the changing times of Colombia, there is still a long way to go.
"Today, we are in a very complex context where very important things are at risk, such as the implementation of the peace agreement with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Those agreements are being questioned," she said.
For Bernal, while it is still in the early days, those who do not clearly define themselves on the left-right ideological spectrum will have fewer chances to succeed.
According to the specialist, right-wing candidates such as German Vargas Lleras, former prosecutor Alejandro Ordonex, former minister Martha Lucia Ramirez and former senator Ivan Duque will benefit from concerns about security or the economy.
"There are economic factors that make you think the country will suffer...unemployment, a slowdown, a lack of growth. In that sense, the options are open, especially as there is a strong positioning from right-wing sectors seeking a "Uribe" solution," she explained, referring to former president Alvaro Uribe who is staunchly opposed to the deal with the FARC.
On March 11, congressional elections will take place, in which will be named the one right-wing candidate who will run for the presidency.
"In this political moment...the polls are positioning Petro and Fajardo as options. But the right-wing forces will make their choice on March 11...the polls will begin to better reflect (reality)," says Bernal.
More vulnerable communities suffering from poverty and inequality will likely turn to left-wing candidate such as Gustavo Petro, Piedad Cordoba, and Rodrigo Londono, former commander-in-chief of the FARC.
"On the other side, there is a very strong social conflict, a highly marked inequality, the indexes of inequality are always worse in Colombia. This places us among the most unequal countries in the world, which opens up a great possibility for the left," explained Bernal.
Several of the leading candidates, including the Liberal Party's Humberto de la Calle, the government's chief negotiator with the FARC, have not placed themselves officially into a left-wing or right-wing ideology.
One of the crucial topics as the elections approach will be the evolution of peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN). While a ceasefire was obtained during talks in Ecuador last year, violence has returned since it expired on Jan. 9.
President Santos suspended the peace talks on Jan. 29 after the rebel group carried out a series of attacks against police, leaving seven officers dead and over 40 injured.
"What is happening with the ELN is serious. They have left the table, the ceasefire did not continue. This is very serious for the country because we have seen, that once the ceasefire was lifted, the ELN began increasing its violent actions. This is preoccupying because during the campaign, any of these tensions will be seized by any of the candidates," warned Bernal.
The first round will happen on May 27, and should no candidate win an outright 50 percent victory, the top two candidates will face off in a second round on June 17.