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COLOMBIA
Extreme right wins first round
Latinamerica Press
6/3/2014
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Uribista Óscar Iván Zuluaga led the race but he will compete in the second round with President Juan Manuel Santos.

With an abstention rate that reached 60 percent — considered the highest rate since 1994 when only a bit over 30 percent of the electorate went to vote — on May 25 two candidates that will vie for the presidency of Colombia in a second round were elected. In the first round, 13.3 million voters voted for any of the five candidates who will lead this nation of almost 50 million inhabitants for the next four years.

Extreme right-winder Óscar Iván Zuluaga, from the Democratic Center Movement, finished in first place upon receiving 29.9 percent of the valid votes (which include blank votes), followed by President Juan Manuel Santos, who seeks reelection, with 25.7 percent of the votes. They will face each other off during the second round on June 15.

Former Defense Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez,of the Conservative Party, finished in third place with 15.5 percent of the vote, followed by the leftist Clara López, of the Alternative Democratic Pole-Patriotic Union coalition, who received 15.2 percent of the vote. Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá and member of the Green Alliance Party, finished last with 8.3 percent of the vote.

After learning of the results, President Santos, who is accompanied by lawyer and politician Germán Vargas Lleras as vice president, said that what became clear is that “Colombians will have two options: they will be able to choose those who want the end of the war and those who prefer a war with no end. We will win with peace.” He also called on Ramírez, López and Peñalosa to help him win reelection. “I want to ask them and their followers to accompany us in the fight against the war,” he said.

Zuluaga, for his part, promised that he would work “every day so that Colombia reaches peace, but a peace that only benefits the Colombian people.” Zuluaga, who selected diplomat Carlos Holmes Trujillo as his vice president, is supported by former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), who is now a Senator-elect and has called Santos a traitor for negotiating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Future of peace in danger
After a campaign in which the dirty war dominated discussion, especially between Santos and Zuluaga, it is expected that the journey towards the second round will be filled with mutual accusations.

The issue that will define the electoral results is the negotiations with the FARC. While Santos asked the support of those who voted for the other three candidates, the truth is that only López and Peñalosa defend the dialogue that Santos initiated, while Ramírez favors weakening the guerrilla to make it surrender. With that, Zuluaga would have 45 percent of the vote secured while Santos would obtain 48 percent if his call is effective. However, the election could be defined by the more than 1 million people who cast blank votes — votes considered valid as they indicate that the electorate did not feel represented by any of the candidates but that will not be considered for the second round — or those who annulled their votes, or even those who did not vote but who will vote this time because of such a tight race.

Various analysts coincide in pointing out that if Zuluaga wins, the agreements reached to date with the FARC would go back to square one. Three of the five themes agreed upon of the peace dialogues, held in Havana since November 2012, have been resolved: the Agrarian Agreement, the Political Participation Agreement and the Agreement on Illicit Drugs. The pending agreements are those regarding the giving up of arms and the rights of victims as well as the social integration of the guerrillas.

The reality is that a Zuluaga government would bring back the policy of democratic security, which Santos created when he was minister of Defense during Uribe’s government. This policy resulted in serious human rights violations of civil society. However, it also decisively weakened the FARC and brought them to the negotiating table. For Uribe, and thus for Zuluaga, it is time to take advantage of this alleged weakening of the FARC to give them the final blow and force them to surrender.

For Colombian analyst Andrea Forero, who was interviewed by the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, “in the second round, opposition votes will decide. People will vote to stop the [candidate] they don’t want to win.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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