Colombia: Results from March 14 Elections

On Sunday March 14, Colombians went to the polls to elect 102 Senators, 166 Representatives to the House, 5 members of the Andean Parliament, and —if they wanted to— choose the presidential candidate of the Conservative Party (among Andrés Felipe Árias, José Galat, Álvaro Leyva Durán, Marta Lucía Ramírez, and Noemí Sanín) or the Green Party, led by former Mayors of Bogotá Antanas Mockus, Enrique Peñalosa, and Luis Eduardo Garzón. After the Constitutional Court rejected a referendum seeking to allow a third term for President Álvaro Uribe two weeks earlier, the presidential race started and the Congressional elections took center stage. After all, it is viewed as a barometer of what could happen in the May 30 presidential elections.

Antanas Mockus (left) and Enrique Peñalosa at the Green party celebrations.  Photo used with permission by WiKi Ciudadana - Citizen Journalism on the Web

Antanas Mockus (left) and Enrique Peñalosa at the Green party celebrations. Photo used with permission by WiKi Ciudadana – Citizen Journalism on the Web

Nevertheless, some analysts predicted that there would be little turnover [es] in the Colombian parliament, even though there are around 80 Congresspeople from the current legislature in jail or investigated for links with the paramilitary militias (‘parapolitics’ scandal), and others investigated [es] for ties with the FARC guerrillas.

In the Senate, ruling coalition Party of the U and Conservative Party secured the most seats, with the opposition Liberal Party in third place and a triple tie in the fourth: Party of National Integration (PIN), centre-right Radical Change, and leftist Alternative Democratic Pole. The situation is similar in the House of Representatives. Logistical problems involving the National Registrar Office [es] (Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil [es]) and denouncements of vote buying and cheating also marked these elections.

On Twitter most users were outraged at the good results of the PIN, a party which replaced Citizen Convergence, and which included on its list ‘heirs’ of the ‘parapoliticians’ (mostly relatives or close friends to these questioned people). David Reina (@davidreina88) responds to PIN's success at the polls and writes, “crime pays.” Ricardo Gutiérrez Z. (@gutizapata) provides his opinion about these results [es]:

Lo del PIN es la mejor prueba de que nuestro problema no son los malos candidatos sino los pésimos electores.

What happened with the PIN is the best proof that our problem is not bad candidates but dreadful electors.

Julian Sorel (@elJulianSorel) shares this opinion and calls this the result of “political illiteracy.” Dutch journalist Wies Ubags is also disappointed with the results:

It is sad that a couple of obscure PIN-politicians got a seat while serious candidates like former FARC hostages Luis Eladio Pérez, Clara Rojas or journalist Felipe Zuleta didn’t get enough votes. In this way the new Congress is as affected by the parapolitics-virus as the old one.

It looks as if buying votes as well would be the only solution to solve this problem. What a shame for a country which boasts to be one of the oldest democracies on the continent. “A feast of democracy”, Colombia’s radiostations cried out when the voting day started. It was a tragi-comedy.

Others were optimistic about the —surprisingly— good results of the Green Party, and also referred to the controversy of the Conservative Party internal election, where former Agriculture Minister Andrés Felipe Árias and former Ambassador and Foreign Minister Noemí Sanín dispute the nomination for the presidential candidacy vote by vote.

Luis Fernando Parra Paris of La Silla Vacía [es] writes that the Green Party is the party that “currently captures and channels much of the possibilities for change in the country.” However, Miguel Olaya (@juglardezipa) believes that the Green Party will not end up being part of the opposition, something that @Juan_Os agrees with and provides this analysis:

Predicción: El PV irá a primera vuelta y perderá, en la segunda vuelta se unirá a la coalición Uribista.

Prediction: The Green Party will go to first round and lose, on second round it will join the *Uribista* [ruling] coalition

Another centrist party, Compromiso Ciudadano, led by former Mayor of Medellín and current presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo, is on the verge of reaching the threshold ( *umbral*) needed to be a recognized party. However, Fajardo had collected [es] 700,000 signatures to support his presidential candidacy, so he will be able to run for President as an independent [es] even if his party does not reach the threshold; still, the totals were a little disappointing for the former Mayor.

Tatyana (@periodistica) provides her thoughts why Fajardo failed to garner much support [es]:

Que pesar de los de la lista Fajardo, pero es la lección nº1: en Colombia no se puede hacer política sin maquinarias

I sympathize with the people of the Fajardo list, but that's Democracy 101: in Colombia you can't do politics without a machinery

With much of the results in, many are taking a look at what these elections mean for the Presidential election to be held on May 30. On his blog Atrabilioso [es], Jaime Restrepo analyses the possibilities of the presidential candidates vis-à-vis the results of the legislative elections. The Uribista camp, though managing to get a majority, is split between Juan Manuel Santos (Party of the U) and Andrés Felipe Árias (if he wins the Conservative Party “primary”). But if Árias's victory is not won by a wide margin, he could avoid a coalition with Santos and run for the first round. Despite some errors, Liberal Party's Rafael Pardo could run alone with moderate chances. The left-wing PDA candidate Gustavo Petro has a “complex scenario”, since his party (divided in moderate and radical factions, himself being a ‘moderate’) lost seats in these elections.

Having distanced himself from the Liberal Party and the PDA, Restrepo considers that centre-right candidate Germán Vargas Lleras (Radical Change) must run alone for the first round. About Fajardo, Restrepo says that he will go on until May 30, but that “the next poll will show if he is not the option for the second round anymore.” Finally, Restrepo predicts that Green Party's Antanas Mockus will run on the first round and join the anti-Uribista camp for the second.


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