A dissident group within the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico) party in Colombia asked their party’s National Executive Committee to allow them to vote for any candidate they choose to support, as many of them sympathize with Gustavo Petro, the left-wing candidate who used to be a member of their party and who now ranks as the second favorite in the first round of the May 27 presidential elections, according to most opinion polls.
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The faction, led by senators Ivan Cepeda, Alexander Lopez, Jesus Alberto Castilla, Senen Niño, representative Alirio Uribe, along with 100 other members, asked the head of the party to allow them to decide between Petro and their own candidate Sergio Fajardo, but they were denied the request by Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, the party’s most acknowledged leader.
“It’s possible to have people with divergent opinions, but everything that the Polo decided regarding the coalition was unanimously approved by the National Executive Committee, including Fajardo’s candidancy… there’s no reason to change that,” Robledo argued.
The Polo Democratico conditions its members with a strict voting policy, forcing them to vote only for their own party candidates. Doing otherwise could result in “double militancy,” penalized under the party’s code.
But the unity within the party has been rather fragile, especially when it comes to the upcoming presidential election.
“Some sectors within the Polo, congress people, counselors, representatives, militants, are supporting the candidancy of Gustavo Petro," said Representative Alirio Uribe and added “we’re looking forward to that, to reach an agreement to set free the Polo sectors that are already supporting Petro’s candidancy.”
Militants of the Polo Democratico that have been supporting Petro for months wanted approval from their own party’s directors, and the negative response may push them to take more drastic decisions.
It was Robledo who promoted Polo Democratico’s agreement to join the Green Alliance in the 2018 presidential elections in the Colombia Coalition. According to Alvaro Argote, Polo Democratico’s president, seven out of the 28 active members of the party’s committee support Petro.
Petro used to be a member of Polo Democratico, for which he held a seat as senator, but distanced himself from the party in 2010 after the presidential elections. Many followed his steps and joined him in his new political ventures.
He is now the candidate of the Human Colombia Movement, composed of center-left and left-wing parties, and is the second favorite for the May 27 first round of presidential elections, behind the right-wing candidate Ivan Duque.