If Antanas Mockus wins the Colombian elections – and polls indicate that he will – he won’t be your average president. Not only did he make his name when rector of the National University by dropping his pants and mooning a packed auditorium of rioting students, but he has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. And then there’s his party. If the 58-year-old is elected, he will be the first Green head of state in the world.
Next Sunday, Colombians will vote for a successor to the outgoing president, Alvaro Uribe, and Mr Mockus, a philosophy professor and mathematician, is favorite to win, leading his rival, the former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos, by up to nine points in polls. The son of Lithuanian immigrants, and twice mayor of Bogota (1995-97, 2001-03), he might never have entered politics were it not for that pants-dropping incident in 1994. He was forced to resign from his post as rector but, in a bizarre twist, it triggered a groundswell of support. Suddenly a symbol of honesty, he stood for mayor of Bogota on a ticket to cut corruption and curb the city’s violence, and won by a record majority.
His approach is playful, wacky even, but few can fault his two terms as mayor. To tackle the city’s chaotic traffic, he deployed teams of street mime artists to show both drivers and pedestrians how to behave. It was so successful he was able to dispense with the corrupt municipal traffic police and employ more mimes instead.