Presidential elections were held in Colombia on May 25 and June 15, 2014. The President is the head of state and government of Colombia, which is a presidential republic.
The President of Colombia is elected to a four-year term in office, renewable once (with no possibility for non-consecutive reelection after two terms in office) by a two-round system. In the first round, a candidate needs to win 50%+1 of the valid votes cast – in Colombia, there is a blank vote (voto en blanco) option on all ballots which is counted in the final tally of valid votes. If no candidate meets this threshold, a second round is held between the top two candidates – once again because of the voto en blanco option, a candidate only needs to win a plurality of the vote in the second round to be elected. Like in the United States, the presidential candidate runs on a ticket with a running-mate, who becomes Vice President if the ticket wins and accedes to the Presidency if the office falls vacant.
These elections followed congressional elections held on March 9. I covered the results of the congressional elections in extensive detail here, and right before that I covered Colombia’s political history and the background to these elections in a preview post.
President Juan Manuel Santos was elected to the presidency in 2010, as the somewhat natural successor of two-term President Álvaro Uribe, who was elected in 2002. Uribe, a former Liberal who had been governor of Antioquia department (centered around Medellín) in the 1990s, was widely known in Colombia and abroad for his tough, uncompromising stance (known as seguridad democrática or ‘democratic security’) against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), the leftist guerrillas-cum-narcoterrorists who have been the most active and violent anti-governmental guerrilla group in Colombia since the mid-1960s.
When Uribe took office in 2002, Colombia was in a chaotic state: guerrilla violence had increased significantly since the late 1990s, in the forms of murders, kidnappings, extortion; at the other extreme, far-right paramilitaries, financed by drug trafficking and assisted by many in government and the military, had grown in size, power and influence and were behind the massacres of hundreds of civilians in the countryside. Between 1998 and 2002, President Andrés Pastrana’s attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with the FARC in exchange for the concession of a large demilitarized zone to the FARC had ended in disaster: the FARC used the DMZ to rearm, train and continue their campaign of terror. Just months before the 2002 election, the exasperated Colombian government ordered the army to retake the DMZ. Uribe promised a hard line against the FARC – there would be no peace until armed groups agreed to demobilize on the state’s terms. Uribe was elected in a landslide. In 2006, having managed to amend the constitution to allow consecutive reelection, he was reelected in a landslide again.
Uribe successfully managed to significantly reduce the toll of political violence on the country – under his two terms in office, the homicide rate fell significantly (70.2 in 2002 to 33.4 in 2010). The largest paramilitary group, the United Self-Defenses of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC), were demobilized gradually between 2003 and 2006. Uribe’s government claimed success and argued it had balanced the considerations of peace and justice. However, the demobilization was rife with controversy: the government was found to be lenient on the paramilitaries and a 2005 ‘justice and peace law’ passed by Congress offered shortened jail sentences to paramilitary leaders if they confessed (even if only partially) some of their crimes. Since the demobilization, many demobilized paramilitaries have recycled themselves in new criminal gangs, which may have as many as 6,000-10,000 members. Beginning in 2006, the parapolítica (parapolitics) scandal revealed to the general public the extent of ties between the murderous paramilitaries and high-ranking politicians (ministers, governors, congressmen, military officers). Most of those politicians implicated in the parapolitics scandal were supporters of President Uribe.
The government’s military strategy against the FARC paid off, especially in 2008: in March, a cross-border raid in Ecuador killed the FARC’s second-in-command, Raúl Reyes (sparking a diplomatic row with Ecuador and Venezuela); in July, the military successfully rescued several FARC hostages, including the most well known of them, Ingrid Betancourt, a 2002 presidential candidate who had been held captive by the FARC since 2002. However, by the time Uribe left office, the FARC was still nowhere close to total defeat: they remained a real and potent threat, with a strong offensive capacity and robust bases in remote regions. However, Uribe’s security policies were also criticized – there remains strong concerns regarding human rights violations by the military, tragically exemplified by the ‘false positives’ scandal – a long-standing practice (revealed in 2008) of extrajudicial assassinations of civilians by the army to present them as guerrillas killed in action, to embellish the army’s record.
Human rights concerns were often cited by American lawmakers seeking to reduce the hefty multi-million dollar US military aid to Colombia (officially in the name of the war on drugs, and, post-9/11, in the ‘war on terror’ against the guerrillas). Under Uribe’s presidency, Colombia became the Bush administration’s strongest ally in Latin America in the context of the ‘pink wave’. Washington significantly expanded its contribution to Plan Colombia, blurring the lines between counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations. In return, the Uribe administration extradited a growing number of its citizens to face trial in the US. Latin American left-wingers, notably Hugo Chávez, strongly criticized Uribe’s pro-American stance and Bogotá’s military alliance with the US – a 2009 Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US led to a diplomatic crisis with Venezuela, which charged that Bogotá was preparing for an invasion of Venezuela with US assistance. In turn, Uribe’s government often suspected that Chávez was harbouring or assisting the FARC, a view confirmed when the Colombian military seized a laptop from Raúl Reyes’ headquarters and found files detailing meetings between FARC leaders and Venezuelan military officers or the existence of ‘safe areas’ in Venezuela.
Uribe attracted controversy on a wide number of fronts, including his own autocratic style. During the parapolítica scandal, in which over 70 congressmen were implicated, Uribe tried to short-circuit the judiciary’s work by mulling amnesties, reduced sentences for those who confessed and confronting the Supreme Court over an alleged judicial conspiracy against Uribe (which was likely fabricated by Uribe himself). Between 2008 and 2010, Uribe’s allies in Congress tried to hold a referendum to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a third consecutive term in office in 2010. These attempts were highly controversial, but the Constitutional Court killed Congress’ referendum bill, declaring both the bill and the legislative process deeply flawed and unconstitutional.
Uribe’s high levels of popularity rested not only on his democratic security policies, but also on the country’s robust economic growth during his two terms – the economy grew by as much as 7% in 2007 and, unlike Brazil and Venezuela, did not go in recession in 2009. In office, Uribe generally favoured neoliberal and free-market policies, with a focus on improving public finances, reforming government and reducing inflation. The government claimed to have made progress in reducing poverty and income inequality in one of the region’s most unequal and class stratified countries. In 2010, 37% of Colombians still lived under the national poverty line and 39.5% lived on less than $4 a day.
Unable to run for reelection himself, Uribe endorsed Juan Manuel Santos, his defense minister (2006-2009) and the scion of a prominent Colombian family – his uncle, Eduardo Santos Montejo, was a Liberal president from 1938 to 1942, and his family owned El Tiempo, Colombia’s largest newspaper, for generations. Santos left the Liberal Party along with other uribistas and later helped created the Party of the U (Partido de la U, formally known as the Social Party of National Unity/Partido Social de la Unidad Nacional or PSUN) to rally many uribistas in Congress. As defense minister, Santos was directly responsible for approving the operations which killed Raúl Reyes and freed Ingrid Betancourt; in his tenure, he also made real efforts to enforce respect for human rights in military actions and handled the ‘false positives’ well (by forcing an end to such actions, and not attempting to whitewash it). Santos was widely seen as Uribe’s preferred candidate (although Uribe’s real favourite was his agriculture minister Andrés Felipe Arias, who was defeated by Noemí Sanín in the Conservative primaries), and his campaign repeatedly emphasized both Uribe’s record and his own record as his defense minister.
Santos dominated the first round on May 30 with 46.7% against only 21.5% for Antanas Mockus, a former mayor of Bogotá (1995-1997, 2001-2003) and eccentric outsider running for the newly-created Green Party (Partido Verde, PV). A month later, Santos was handily elected President with 69.1% against 27.5% for Mockus. The election was disturbed by a severe diplomatic crisis with Venezuela – Chávez lashed out at Santos, who he called a ‘real military threat’, a ‘mafioso’ and a pawn of the ‘Yankee imperialists’, and that ‘there would be war’ if Santos won. Colombia revealed proof that of the presence of FARC and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, a smaller guerrilla organization founded in 1964 and originally inspired by the Cuban Revolution and Liberation Theology) guerrillas in Venezuela, to which Caracas responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Colombia and moving troops to border regions. Upon taking office, Santos successfully defused the crisis by meeting with Chávez.
Upon taking office, Santos continued the military strategy against the FARC, but he also said that the door to peace talks with the FARC was not closed. However, in 2010, the FARC’s answer to Santos’ more conciliatory attitude was a wave of attacks and ambushes. In September 2010, the military scored a major success in a large-scale and well-orchestrated operation which killed ‘Mono Jojoy’, one of the FARC’s top military leaders. His death was hailed by both the government and the media as a significant blow to the FARC, given that Mono Jojoy was considered as one of the FARC’s leading military commanders and a key person in the organization. In November 2011, in another major blow to the FARC, the military killed Alfonso Cano, Marulanda’s successor as the political leader of the FARC.
Soon after taking office, Santos’ government proposed legislation to address the issue of land ownership – restoring land stolen or purchased under duress by paramilitaries and guerrillas. Unequal land distribution has been both a cause and consequence of the conflict, with some 16,000 people in 2005 owning over 62% of the land and about 6 million hectares illegally or violently seized. The government’s law proposed to return the land to their original owners, placing the burden of proof on owners. The law was passed in 2011, but application has been slow and claimants have lived in fear of neo-paramilitary groups, which have killed or threatened those claiming land.
The law was part of a wider landmark ‘Victims and Land Restitution Law’. The law was welcomed because, for the first time, the government recognized the existence of an ‘armed conflict’ and its legal, humanitarian implications. Secondly, the law also allowed for compensation to those who had been victims of abuses by state forces – not only the FARC and paramilitaries. An Amnesty International report, however, cited major concerns with the law including: definition of victims (excluding those who continue to suffer abuses from neo-paramilitaries, unrecognized as such by the government), the exclusion of many displaced persons from the process and playing down state responsibility. The analysis also looked into barriers to the restitution of land, clauses which may legitimize land theft and inadequate support for victims.
Santos has taken a more diplomatic demeanor in his relations with his neighbors; under Uribe, relations with Chávez’s Venezuela and Rafael Correa’s Ecuador were often strained while relations with left-wing governments in Brazil and Argentina were barely any better. In office, Santos restored diplomatic ties with Ecuador and Venezuela, effecting an unofficial truce with Venezuela. In exchange for Venezuela extraditing Colombian guerrillas, Bogotá extradited a Venezuelan accused of drug trafficking to Venezuela instead of the US. In August 2010, after the Constitutional Court struck down the 2009 defense cooperation agreement as unconstitutional, Santos did nothing to revive the contentious agreement which had soured Bogotá’s regional ties.
Santos’ foreign policy has been only one issue which has soured relations with Uribe. Santos has never been Uribe’s puppet, even when he was his ostensibly loyal defense minister, but relations between the two men started going south in 2011. Uribe faulted Santos for his cordial ties with Chávez, claiming that Colombia could not have diplomatic relations with a country which harboured terrorists. Uribe also began criticizing his successor’s domestic policies – he found Santos’ security policy ineffective and soft, he opposed the land restitution law, he opposed amending a bill to remove responsibility for judging abuses by security forces from military courts and strongly opposed any talks of negotiations with the FARC. The government’s tax reform in 2012 was seen as an attack on Uribe, given that it sought to remove tax breaks and incentives for companies created by Uribe. Finally, Santos welcomed two 2010 presidential candidates known as critics of Uribe into his cabinet: Germán Vargas Lleras became Minister of the Interior (until May 2012, later Minister of Housing) and Rafael Pardo, the Liberal candidate in 2010, was appointed Minister of Labour.
Several high-ranking allies of Uribe have also been prosecuted in corruption cases. Andrés Felipe Arias, Uribe’s agriculture minister, was arrested in 2011 for his role in the Agro Ingreso Seguro, an agricultural subsidy which ended up in the hands of powerful landowners and even a beauty queen. Uribe’s former chief of staff was also arrested for his role in a DAS wiretapping scandal. Uribe has stood by his allies, claiming they were victims of political persecution.
In June 2012, Santos ran into controversy over a proposed judicial reform which started out with fairly good intentions but turned, thanks to Congress, into a disaster for the government. The judiciary opposed the government’s early projects, but the situation became chaotic when Congress approved the bill including various advantages for corrupt congressmen/ex-congressmen: notably stripping the Supreme Court of its power to investigate corruption cases involving legislators. The Minister of Justice announced his resignation in disgust, there were several opposition protests against the bill and the left clamored for a referendum on the bill. Bowing to the enormous pressure, Santos convened Congress to repeal the law only a few days after it was passed.
Santos’ government has felt that, to secure peace, it needed to offer the guerrillas incentives to negotiate. In May 2012, Congress passed a law giving itself the power to decide the criteria determining which crimes would be investigated by prosecutors and which would be investigated by others. The bill was opposed by both Uribe and human rights groups, the latter claiming that it guaranteed impunity for those who committed crimes against humanity. Now that Colombia is a full member of the ICC, crimes against humanity and war crimes are the full jurisdiction of the ICC and amnesty could be challenged there.
In September 2012, Santos publicly confirmed that Colombian officials had been engaged in secret negotiations with the FARC in Cuba and Norway. The talks, in secret, likely began in January and by October, the two parties reached agreement on a framework for those talks. Santos claimed that they had learned the mistakes of the past and they would not be repeated; notably, the talks are being held abroad, and there is no concession of a DMZ to the FARC within Colombian territory. The talks were accompanied with a two-month ceasefire from the FARC, which they generally respected; but in 2013, the FARC returned to kidnappings (albeit many hostages were quickly released) and killing police officers. Some saw the attacks as a way for the FARC to prove that they remain a potent threat, without undermining the peace talks
In May 2013, agreement was reached on the first topic under discussion: rural development. The agreement talked of loans and technical help for small farmers, but nothing will be implemented until there is a final agreement on all matters. Other issues on the list are political participation (allowing the FARC to participate in the political process, while guaranteeing their safety, after drug lords and paramilitaries mowed down UP leaders and members in the 1980s), ending the conflict (the FARC surrendering their weapons and demobilizing), the issue of drugs and drug trafficking (Santos has come out in favour of considering the legalization of soft drugs) and finally victims (both of FARC and government atrocities).
In August, talks were hiccuped when the FARC felt that the government was rushing the talks forward in a (failed) attempt to reach a final deal before the March 2014 elections. But after a three-day walkout, the FARC returned to the table. In November, after reaching tentative agreement on political participation, the talks were rocked by revelations of a FARC plot to assassinate Uribe and other politicians (although it wasn’t clear if they were current plans). The issue of justice and the future of FARC leaders, who may face charges of crimes against humanity, will be very difficult.
Uribe has strongly opposed negotiations with the FARC, viewing it as akin to surrendering to terrorists. He used his Twitter account to publicize, on one occasion with a graphic picture, the FARC’s guerrilla attacks and their victims.
In February 2014, Semana, a popular magazine, reported that a military intelligence unit had been spying on the government’s negotiating team in the FARC peace talks for over a year. Uribe denied being on the receiving end of confidential information; his disclosure of confidential information (in August 2012, announcing the secret negotiations; in 2013, tweeting the coordinates of where an helicopter was picking up negotiators in a jungle clearing) in the past had raised questions. Two weeks after the revelations, Santos fired General Leonardo Barrero, the commander of the military; this time in links to Semana publicizing a transcript of a conversation the general had with a colonel facing charges for the extrajudicial killing of civilians.
Santos has been considerably less popular than his predecessor. There were student protests against a controversial education reform in 2011. In August 2013, large protests including miners, truckers, coffee growers, milk producers, public healthcare workers, students and others erupted in several departments. Both Uribe and the FARC, opportunistically, threw their support behind the protests. The protesters had different gripes: coffee growers demanding government assistance to counter dropping prices, farmers protested disadvantageous export prices and restrictions on the use of Colombian seeds (over foreign seeds, under the FTA), truckers demanding investment in infrastructure to fix Colombia’s bad roads, others opposing the terms of the FTA with the US which was finally ratified in 2011. Mining contracts with foreign mining giants have often led to local protests, motivated by fears that mining would hurt local agriculture and the water supply. In the wake of the protests, Santos’ approval rating in September 2013 tumbled to the low 20s (from about 50%), with voters citing disapproval of the way Santos had handled the protests.
Colombia’s armed conflict, since the 1960s, has claimed the lives of up to 200,000 people and displaced nearly 5 million people, as campesinos were forced to migrate towards the cities by the guerrillas, forced recruitment of family members or paramilitaries/landowners forcibly expropriating millions of hectares. However, the armed conflict has rarely prevented economic growth in Colombia, which has only been in recession one year since 1980. In 2014, the economy will continue to grow by 4.5%, a stronger growth rate than either Argentina or Brazil. Unemployment has come down from 12% in 2010 to 9% today, the macroeconomic outlook is healthy and poverty is down (but 33% of the population remains poor, according to a recent CEPAL study, and over half of the labour force is employed in the informal sector) – the upbeat government is selling Colombia as open for business, especially in the energy and mining sectors. However, income inequality remains a huge issue in Colombia – one of the world’s most unequal countries according to the Gini index (55.9)
Juan Manuel Santos, the incumbent President, was the candidate of the Unidad Nacional (National Unity) coalition, which is formally made up of the Party of the U, the Liberal Party and Germán Vargas Lleras’ Radical Change (Cambio Radical) party.
Santos is affiliated with the Party of the U, originally founded in 2005 by uribista Liberal dissidents (like Santos). Although the U never became a ‘party of power’ (unlike Chávez’s PSUV) but it evolved into a santista party since 2010 as Santos cemented his control over the party. As such, the party has shifted ideologically from a conservative and strongly hawkish position to a more moderate and pragmatic positions. Santos is, if such terms can be used, on the centre-right and declares himself to be an admirer of Tony Blair’s Third Way.
The Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Colombiano, PLC) is one of Colombia’s two historically dominant parties, alongside the Conservatives, and exist since the 1840s. Until 1957, with some exceptions, the Liberals and Conservatives alternated in power not through elections but rather through bloody civil wars. The last such civil war between the two parties, La Violencia, was so violent and destructive – lasting from 1948 until 1957 and killing 200,000-300,000 – that the Liberals and Conservatives agreed to share power and alternate in the presidency. This arrangement, the National Front, which lasted until 1974 (but power-sharing of government jobs lasted until 1990), signaled the end of sharp distinctions between the two parties who were no longer separated by any one issue and agreeing on most issues of the day. The Liberals were hit particularly hard by the defection of several of their members, first and foremost Uribe himself, to uribismo after 2002. The Liberal leadership joined the ranks of the opposition to Uribe; although they retained a fairly significant (if much reduced) bench in Congress, the Liberals have performed terribly in presidential elections since 2002: 11.8% in 2006 and 4.4% in 2010. The Liberals have long since lost all ideological content, and remain largely an assemblage of caciques and veteran politicians – granted, all Colombian parties are like that.
The Radical Change party (CR) was founded in 1998 by Liberal dissidents, supporters of assassinated Liberal politician Luis Carlos Galán (killed by Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel in 1989). In 2002, Germán Vargas Lleras, the grandson of a former President and Senator (1998-2008), joined the party along with his personalist outfit, ‘Colombia Siempre‘ (Colombia Always). In the Senate, Vargas Lleras was a noted opponent of the government’s peace talks with the FARC in 1998-2002 and, as such, he grew closer to another opponent, Álvaro Uribe. The CR came to become an uribista party, but it was also very much implicated in the parapolitics scandal – 8 of its 33 congressmen in the 2006-2010 term were arrested, investigated or ordered to be arrested by the Supreme Court and the Attorney General. Vargas Lleras opposed Uribe’s reelection for a third term and ran for president in 2010, placing third with 10.1% of the vote. Vargas Lleras later joined Santos’ cabinet (serving in the interior and later housing portfolios), and he was Santos’ running-mate.
Juan Manuel Santos is an ambitious, wily politician who has always managed to work himself into favourable positions politically, despite a lack of any electoral experience until his election to the presidency in 2010. Santos, as aforementioned, comes from a leading family of the Colombian (Liberal) elite and he received a top-notch foreign education in the United States (University of Kansas and Harvard) and the United Kingdom (LSE). Álvaro Uribe, on the other hand, comes from a much less elitist background (unlike Santos, Uribe is not from Bogotá but from Medellín in Antioquia), which gives him a more populist touch and makes him seem ‘closer to the people’ than the cosmopolitan and elitist Santos. Ideologically, while Uribe is dogmatic, ideologically conservative and inflexible; Santos is at heart a pragmatist if not an opportunist. Santos is often criticized by his opponents of his longstanding political opportunism – he originally was a harsh critic of Andrés Pastrana’s government but joined Pastrana’s cabinet as Minister of Finance in 2000, he opposed Uribe from 2002 until early 2005 (as late as January 2005, Santos penned an op-ed in El Tiempo opposing Uribe’s reelection) before working his way into Uribe’s cabinet as Minister of Defense and taking control of the Party of the U. Nowadays, he is often criticized for having little qualms in allying with corrupt politicians, ex-parapolitics congressmen, powerful local caciques and party bosses.
Santos’ main campaign issue were the peace negotiations with the FARC/ELN and the promise of peace during a second term, which Santos claimed would create a stronger country and argued that peace could create over a million jobs in Colombia. At the same time, Santos also promised to increase safety in the country by increasing sanctions for misdemeanors, intervening in troubled urban areas to restore order, increasing law enforcement capabilities and focusing more closely on domestic violence and sexual crimes. Santos promised to make Colombia a regional centre for outsourcing, call centres and IT; he also supported investments to help young entrepreneurs, facilitating access to credit for new businesses, helping SMEs and job creation in all sectors. He also heavily promoted an ambitious large-scale infrastructure plan to massively expand highways, railways, ports and public transit. The incumbent promised to eliminate extreme poverty by 2020 by building over 1 million new houses (including free housing), promoting traineeships for poor youths, increasing existing subsidies/benefits, providing low-cost housing opportunities and improving education. Like most other candidates, Santos’ platform included promises to improve healthcare access, heavily strengthening and improving education (a major focus as of late for the Colombian government), bolstering Colombia’s regional and international standing and protecting the environment (through financial incentives for businesses).
In March 2014, the three parties of the National Unity coalition won 47 senators (21 U, 17 Liberal, 9 CR) and 92 representatives (39 Liberal, 37 U, 16 CR) – so, a majority in the latter but only a plurality in the former.
Having failed to regain control of the U, Álvaro Uribe has created his own party to oppose Santos’ government, the Democratic Centre (Centro Democrático, CD) in 2013. The CD’s presidential candidate was Óscar Iván Zuluaga, Uribe’s former Minister of Finance and Public Credit (2007-2010) and an uribista Senator prior to that, from 2002 to 2006.
The CD is very much a personalist party built around and entirely dominated by Uribe: it was actually first known as the ‘Uribe Democratic Centre’ and the party’s original logo was Uribe’s face (the current logo is a man’s silhouette, which looks similar to Uribe). The party’s slogan, which is part of its official electoral name, is Uribe’s emblematic 2002 slogan – mano firme, corazón grande (firm hand, big heart). The CD include uribistas from other parties, notably the U and the Conservatives. Prominent members of the CD include Uribe’s Vice President Francisco ‘Pacho’ Santos Calderón (who is also the President’s first cousin) and the former governor of Antioquia Luis Alfredo Ramos. Zuluaga and these two men have been linked to the parapolitics scandal: ‘Pacho’ Santos is under investigation for a meeting with AUC leaders in which he allegedly suggested that the AUC creates a front in Bogotá; in August 2013, Ramos was arrested on orders of the Attorney General for his presumed ties to paramilitaries; Zuluaga was investigated by the Attorney General in 2007 for a 2003 picture of him at an event for a former paramilitary running for mayor.
Zuluaga was nominated as the CD’s presidential candidate in October 2013, defeating ‘Pacho’ Santos and Carlos Holmes Trujillo (a senior diplomat under Uribe) – the latter was later selected as Zuluaga’s running mate.
In March, Álvaro Uribe was the CD’s top candidate for the Senate, where the CD narrowly missed out on first place – winning 14.3% of the vote and 19 seats. In the lower house, however, the CD won only 9.5% and 18 seats.
What differentiated Zuluaga from Santos – and many of the other candidates as well – was his virulent opposition to peace talks with the FARC/ELN, which has been the major point of disagreement between Uribe and Santos. When that admittedly top issue is ignored for a moment, both Santos and Zuluaga actually agreed on a lot of other major topics including the economy, jobs, healthcare, education, the environment, citizen safety, poverty and judicial reform.
On the issue of peace, Zuluaga conditioned the continuation of negotiations with the ‘terrorist groups’ (as the FARC/ELN are called by uribistas) to their an unilateral ceasefire including a rapidly verifiable disarming and demobilization (conditions which the FARC would refuse). He strongly opposed any constituent assembly, demobilization of the Colombian armed forces, demanded that FARC criminals face tough judicial sentences and refused to allow former FARC leader to participate in politics. Defending Uribe’s famous and popular policy of seguridad democrática, Zuluaga also called on strengthening the armed forces at a regional level, conditional release of military personnel imprisoned for certain types of offenses, raising military salaries and strengthening a network of civilian ‘cooperators’. He also proposed a large-scale plan to disarm individuals and groups, with compensation if necessary.
On other issues, as aforementioned, Zuluaga came close to Santos – once you take away the fluff and policy focus differences – on other major issues. Zuluaga appeared less ambitious (more realistic?) with regards to infrastructure and tangible job creation but went further than Santos on healthcare accessibility and fighting rural poverty. The two did differ on minority rights (with Santos being a proponent of stronger self-government for the indigenous and Afro-Colombian minorities, while Zuluaga focused on affirmative action and improving education) and political reform (Santos going further with ideas to abolish reelection, electoral reform and anti-corruption measures; while Zuluaga focused on reducing costs and improving efficiency in government).
La Silla Vacía had an excellent feature allowing you to compare the candidates’ stances on the major issues, and comparing where Santos and Zuluaga in particular stood on these issues (in Spanish, por supuesto).
Marta Lucía Ramírez was the candidate of the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Colombiano, PCC). Ramírez, an ambitious and determined politician, served as Minister of Foreign Trade under President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) and as Minister of Defense under Álvaro Uribe (2002-2006). In the latter job, her aggressive style and daring ideas (centralizing military procurement) clashed with the military, which was already very cool towards a civilian woman as minister. Elected to the Senate for the Party of the U in 2006, she left the U in 2009 to run, unsuccessfully, for the Conservative presidential nomination in 2010.
The Conservatives were, with the Liberals, the other dominant party for over a century. The Conservatives dominated much of the early twentieth century (until 1930) in Colombia, following the collapse of federalism and the adoption of a highly centralist and strongly conservative constitution in 1886. Like the Liberals, the Conservatives have always been a complex web of competing clans and factions – often led by mutually antagonistic caciques. The Conservatives last held the Colombian presidency between 1998 and 2002, with Andrés Pastrana, most famous for the failed peace negotiations with the FARC which very much weakened the Conservatives in the 2002 elections – so much that they ran no candidates and backed Uribe, while taking a major hit in Congress. Joining the uribista coalition, the Conservatives enjoyed a brief resurgence in congressional elections in 2006 and 2010, but their presidential candidate in 2010, former ambassador and two-time (1998, 2002) independent presidential candidate Noemí Sanín, won only 6.1% and fifth place. The party was very much divided over the current government and its strategy for 2014: most of its congressional candidates were santista, but the party has a strong pro-Uribe group – Alejando Ordóñez, the somewhat controversial Inspector General, is a Conservative and close ally of Uribe, known for conservative and Catholic positions on social issues. Ramírez is a moderate uribista and anti-santista, who was nominated despite the best efforts of Conservative caciques. She had the backing of only 6-8 of the Conservative Party’s 19 senators – in general, the base and local structures were in her favour, but congressmen were largely santista (the government having been good at providing congressmen with ‘marmalade’).
Ramírez landed between the ‘doves’ and the ‘hawks’ on the peace issue – she said that she would set a strict four month to finalize negotiations and insisted that the FARC comply with certain immediate conditions: stop recruiting child soldiers, immediate stop to all war crimes and cooperation in the eradication of minefields. Ramírez also promised that there would be a referendum on the deals which had already been reached with the FARC. Her campaign also focused on improving education, expanding access to post-secondary education and boosting youth entrepreneurship.
Clara López ran for the Democratic Alternative Pole (Polo Democrático Alternativo, PDA), the largest left-wing party in Colombia. The country stands out from its neighbors because the left has always been weak: the ties (real or imagined) of many left-wingers to the FARC have brought the leftist brand into disrepute while paramilitaries and drug cartels have often assassinated left-wing politicians – in the 1980s, for example, the pro-FARC Patriotic Union (UP), was more or less exterminated by the cartels and paramilitaries in the 1980s and 1990s until it was forced stop participating in elections. The Polo was founded in 2005, by the merger of two parties. Since then, it has been one of the few parties unambiguously in opposition to both Uribe and Santos. Many of its politicians were members or sympathized with armed guerrilla movements in the 1970s and 1980s, especially the demobilized (in 1990) M-19 group.
In 2006, the Polo benefited from a polarization of public opinion and its candidate, Carlos Gaviria (called a communist by Uribe), won 22% and placed a distant second to Uribe. However, it won only a few seats in Congress (10 in the Senate, 8 in the Chamber). In Congress, however, many Polo leaders over time have gained notoriety for leading charges against the government – under Uribe, then-senator Gustavo Petro blew the whistle in the parapolitics case and the Polo opposed the FTA with the US and backed same-sex marriage bills. In 2010, the party was weakened by rising internal dissent between moderates (clearly anti-FARC) and leftists (some with lingering sympathies for the FARC); the Polo lost seats in the congressional elections (8 and 5 seats in the two respective houses) and the party’s candidate, moderate senator Gustavo Petro, won 9%. After the election, a major internal crisis led to moderates around Petro quitting the party, which is now led by Clara López.
López is the niece of former President Alfonso López Michelsen (1974-1978), a left-wing Liberal who opposed the National Front arrangement with the Conservatives, and López herself made her first steps in local politics in Bogotá under the banner of Luis Carlos Galán’s New Liberalism in the mid-1980s before moving towards the left and the UP. She was a close ally of former Bogotá mayor Samuel Moreno (2008-2011), who was removed from office by the Inspector General because of corruption scandals (construction kickbacks). She became acting mayor of Bogotá for six months in 2011 after Moreno’s removal from office, and she made a very good impression. After having been Gustavo Petro’s running-mate in 2010, López became a harsh critic of Petro, especially after his 2011 election as mayor of Bogotá and subsequent controversial policies of his administration.
The Polo agreed with the government on the peace process, and López promised to honour whatever agreements the Santos government had reached. The Polo, however, disagrees with Santos on most other issues. López promised substantial state investments in housing, a judicial reform to make it more democratic and transparent, a restructuring of the health system, reforming private health insurers (who manage public healthcare funds), free education to the university level, doubling spending on education, stricter regulation of big mining companies and banning big mining projects in fragile natural ecosystems.
López shifted her campaign towards the centre, trying to appeal to a wider crowd of unhappy voters rather than the narrower left-wing base. She placed more emphasis on issues which differentiated her from Santos – education, healthcare – and argued that he was disconnected from the reality.
The Polo’s 2014 strategy revolved around harnessing the 2013 social protest movements. Many of its congressional candidates in March were recruited from social movements (miners, truckers, healthcare, academia, agriculture) or trade unions. López’s candidacy was endorsed by the main teacher’s union (Fecode) and the largest trade union confederation in the country (CUT), and supported by the UP (which was recreated in 2013) – López’s running mate was from the UP.
Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, a former coffee worker union leader from Tolima, was the Polo’s top candidate for Senate in March and was the single most voted candidate in the country (191,910 votes or 1.3% of the total votes cast), although that didn’t stop the party from losing a total of 5 seats in both houses of Congress. Robledo gained notoriety and popularity for being an active, competent legislator and as a vocal congressional opponent to Uribe and Santos (free trade, defense agreement with the US, agricultural policy). He was investigated by the Attorney General for presumed ties to the FARC, but it is widely believed that the investigation, now dropped, was politically-motivated.
Enrique Peñalosa was the candidate of the Green Alliance (Alianza Verde) – or perhaps more accurately, the Green Party (Partido Verde, PV). Peñalosa won the Green Alliance’s nomination in a successful open primary organized alongside the congressional elections in March.
The Green Alliance is the result of the September 2013 alliance of the Green Party with the Progressives Movement (Movimiento Progresistas). Located in the centre of the spectrum, the Greens adopted their name in 2009 (although they were founded in 2005) and did, all things considered, remarkably well in the 2010 presidential election with the candidacy of the eccentric former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus. Mockus placed a very distant second with 21.5% in the first round, but lost heavily in the second round (27.5%). In Congress, however, the Greens won few seats in 2010 – 5 senators and 3 representatives. The Greens are something of a big-tent party, with little ideological cohesion – pro-government voices (the Greens were considered part of the governing coalition until recently), some close to Uribe and others on the left opposed the government.
Enrique Peñalosa, who comes from a political family (his father was a Liberal cabinet minister in the 1960s and a diplomat), was elected mayor of Bogotá as an independent Liberal dissident in 1997 (on his third try) and held the office until 2000, when he was replaced by Antanas Mockus, the gadfly maverick who had defeated him in 1994. Given his background in urban studies, Peñalosa’s administration liked big infrastructure projects and expanding public spaces. Peñalosa is hard to define ideologically – he leans to the left on matters such as social equality but strongly supports law-and-order, which made him sympathize with the legal paramilitary groups/private militias (CONVIVIR) in the 1990s (that idea went about just as well as you’d expect it, before it was ruled unconstitutional in 1997) and, later, with Álvaro Uribe’s security policies. In his 2007 mayoral candidacy, Peñalosa was supported by the Liberal Party and the uribista coalition, but lost 28.2% to 43.7% to Samuel Moreno, the left-wing Polo candidate. In 2011, Peñalosa ran for mayor, losing against Gustavo Petro, but Uribe’s endorsement of Peñalosa’s candidacy split the Greens and led Mockus to leave the party.
The Progressives Movement was founded in 2011 by the Polo’s 2010 presidential candidate and former Senator Gustavo Petro, who represented a moderate (social democratic, notably pro-FTA with the US) and more resolutely anti-FARC wing of the fractious left-wing party. Petro left the Polo shortly after the 2010 election, after having lost the leadership of the party to his former running mate, Clara López, and strongly criticizing the corrupt municipal administration of Bogotá mayor Samuel Moreno. Petro was elected mayor of Bogotá in 2011; he has been unpopular with some voters (he has a personality which can alienate some) and was criticized for a trash removal crisis in 2012 (he decided to not renew the city’s contract with private companies, and instead hand it over to a public company, but errors by the government and the resistance by the unhappy private firms led to a chaotic trash crisis). He was facing a recall vote.
In early December 2013, the Inspector General’s office removed him from office and banned him from holding public office for a period of 15 years, on the grounds that his actions in the waste collection crisis had violated the constitution. The decision, which was later temporarily suspended by a court awaiting judgement from a higher court, reeked of political persecution (as Petro claims): the decision was unexpectedly severe (especially the long ban from holding office; Moreno faced only a year-long ban from office), the Inspector General, Alejandro Ordóñez, is a conservative supporter of Uribe and opponent of the peace talks. In March, the Superior Council of the Judiciary and the Council of State struck down the court’s decision and confirmed the Inspector General’s ruling, but later that month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered the immediate suspension of his removal from office, but President Santos ignored the decision. In late April, a higher court in Bogotá ordered the government to comply with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ ruling and immediately reinstated Petro. It is unclear if the recall referendum, originally scheduled for April 6, will still be held.
The primary was a major success, with over 4.2 million votes being cast (over 3 million of them valid). Enrique Peñalosa handily won the primary, taking 47% and 2 million votes, against only 17% for Progressives Senator Camilo Romero and 8.2% for ‘Mockusian’ Green John Sudarsky. However, Peñalosa’s victory continued to divide the newborn alliance – his proximity to Uribe totally alienates a good deal of the left from him. Sudarsky immediately announced that he would not support Peñalosa, adding that he considered Peñalosa’s victory to be illegitimate because he was, he claimed, elected with Uribe’s votes. Two week before the first round, Gustavo Petro and his party announced that they would support Santos, to endorse the peace process.
Despite his left-wing opponents’ constant emphasis of his friendship-alliance with Uribe, Peñalosa still supported the peace process – but criticized the government for playing politics with the issue, and stressing that FARC members should face sanctions in accordance with international law. Peñalosa also focused heavily on education issues, promising to increase teachers’ pay and build more schools. On environmental issues, Peñalosa supported ‘sustainable mining’ respectful of the environment, because such projects would provide resources to fund infrastructure projects; he also supported the use of sustainable methods of public transit in urban areas and measures to protect natural environments.
Results – First Round
The first round was held on May 25. Turnout was 40.09%, down from 49% in 2010 and 43.6% in the March congressional elections.
Turnout in Colombia has generally been very low – in fact, 40% is by no means a record low or even particularly unusual – turnout was about 33% in 1994, and turnout in presidential elections has not been over 50% since 1998, and it had already been quite low since the 1960s. The armed conflict, in which the Colombian government often lacked total sovereignty over its own territory and which saw armed groups bar voters from voting, has played a major role in Colombia’s very low turnout. Areas controlled by the FARC have historically had very low turnout, although on the other hand, in some regions controlled by paramilitaries, turnout was often quite high as a result of some paramilitaries supporting candidates and marshaling voters to the polls. In addition, since the 1960s-1970s, discontent with the political system – seen as corrupt and with few differences between the parties – has likely played a major role in reducing turnout further. All in all, Colombia’s history has meant that there is no strong civic culture promoting electoral participation.
In total, 13.2 million out of 32.975 million potential voters participated. 12.87 million votes (97.3%) were valid – that is, votes for a candidate (94% of the valid votes) or a voto en blanco (6%). Not counted in these totals are invalid votes (2.3% of all votes cast) and unmarked ballots (0.3%). The number of voto en blancos has increased significantly since 2010, when only 1.5% of the valid votes were invalid (about 223k) – but it is down from the congressional elections (in the Senate election, 10.4% of ballots were invalid, 5.9% were returned unmarked and 6.2% of valid votes were votos en blanco. Results are calculated as a percentage of valid votes.
Óscar Iván Zuluaga (CD) 29.28%
Juan Manuel Santos (UN) 25.72%
Marta Lucía Ramírez (Conservative) 15.52%
Clara López (Polo-UP) 15.21%
Enrique Peñalosa (Green) 8.27%
Votos en blanco 5.98%
The results of the first round shook up the incumbent President’s campaign. Santos placed second, with only 25.7%, behind uribista candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who won 29.3%. The actual result was not a surprise or totally unexpected, however. When I wrote my post on the congressional elections, it still seemed as if Santos would win reelection fairly easily, because none of his opponents had managed to stand out by then. He had a double digit lead over his main opponents at the time – Zuluaga and/or Peñalosa, although Santos was only in the high 20s or low 30s himself in those polls. This indicated that Santos was weak himself, because of his relative unpopularity, but remained the favourite because of the weakness of his opponents. Many felt that Santos would win, but that there would be a huge number of blank votes in protest.
Zuluaga’s position was looking so weak at the time, unable to break through, that there was lots of talk in uribista circles about dumping him with a better candidate (who?). Furthermore, from the congressional elections, if anybody came out with momentum, it was certainly Enrique Peñalosa – notwithstanding the bad blood in the Green Alliance – who had won over 2 million votes in the Green primary, nearly as many as the Uribe-led CD list for the Senate. Indeed, Peñalosa did enjoy a surge in the polls after the congressional elections, with polls showing him leading in a runoff against Santos and looking as the strongest candidate against the incumbent President in all runoff scenarios. However, Peñalosa’s surge proved to be short lived, and quickly petered out while Zuluaga finally broke through and cemented himself as Santos’ top rival. Final polls showed the two in a dead heat in the first and second rounds.
Juan Manuel Santos had become unpopular because of some controversial policies (the failed judicial reform, education), his handling of the strikes and social movements in 2013 and the general sense that, since 2010, Santos hadn’t accomplished much at all either in terms of socioeconomic issues or security. He struggled to find a message for his campaign, he showed himself to be somewhat disdainful of the Unidad Nacional‘s caciques and Germán Vargas Lleras’ pick as his running mate created problems within the coalition. At any rate, Vargas Lleras proved to be a disappointment as a running mate and lead figure for the Santos campaign, which meant that he was kept away from the runoff campaign. This also means that his potential presidential candidacy in 2018 might not be such a sure thing anymore.
On the issue of peace, many voters agreed with aspects of both Santos and Zuluaga’s platforms – the vague idea of peace (Santos) appealed, but many voters disliked the idea of political rights for former FARC rebels or letting them get off the hook easy. Many voters who disliked Santos finally found a home with Zuluaga, whose 3.769 million votes far surpassed the 2.045 million votes won by the Uribe-led CD list for the Senate in March. This is not surprising, because it was clear that the CD had not won the support of all uribistas – Uribe continues to be quite popular with a majority of the electorate. On the other hand, Santos failed to match the 4,975,869 votes won by the U+PLC+CR in the senatorial race in March (he won 3,310,794 in the first round) – which, again, is not surprising because a lot of those votes were votes for local senatorial candidates-caciques from these parties rather than votes for the President. A number of Liberal or other strongholds failed to show up for Santos and the personal strongholds of pro-Santos strongmen around the country didn’t follow their local boss. Turnout was very low in the Caribbean coastal region, departments which are strongholds of the Unidad Nacional, and particularly of powerful pro-Santos caciques. Although turnout is usually low in this region, it was very low in the first round – only 24% in La Guajira, 24.3% in Atlántico or 26.7% in Bolívar – indicating that the local caciques might have sat on their hands. The central regions, where Zuluaga won, had higher turnout and – unlike the Costa – tend to show up more for presidential elections than congressional elections.
Marta Lucía Ramírez came out much stronger from the presidential election, despite placing third. With 15.5% and nearly 2 million votes on her name, she definitely proved her naysayers and opponents in the Conservative Party wrong. Despite lacking the support of many Conservative caciques, who preferred to back their benefactor (Santos), she managed to win more votes than her party had won in the senatorial race in March (1.944 million, she won 1,997,980) – keeping in mind that a lot of those Conservative votes were for Conservative caciques who backed Santos. In 2010, Noemí Sanín’s disappointing campaign only won some 893k votes. Her success boosts her profile and standing within the Conservative Party, and places her in a good position to become the party’s leading contender for the presidency in 2018 – however, the party remains internally divided.
Clara López was another winner, which, like with Ramírez, comes out strengthened while her – which was revealed to be internally divided over López’s strategy and its attitude vis-á-vis Santos – is weakened. López won 1.958 million votes, far more than the 540,000 or so votes received by the Polo’s candidates for Senate in March. She still falls far short of the 2.6 million votes received by the Polo against Uribe in 2006, but still more than the 1.3 million leftist base held by the Polo in 2010. Her ‘reinvention’ – a more centrist outlook (despite an alliance with the markedly left-wing UP), an attempt to broaden the party’s reach beyond the narrow left and a physical makeover for the candidate (see this article from La Silla Vacía) – certainly played some role in her success.
The other main loser was Enrique Peñalosa, whose much-vaunted campaign turned out to be a damp rag which quickly petered out. He was hurt by his inability to impose his leadership either within the Green Alliance – which finds itself more or less dead with Petro’s friends backing Santos from the first round – and in the first round campaign. He had a real opportunity to make himself into Santos’ top opponent, but his support ended up collapsing quickly and largely moving (probably) towards Zuluaga. In the Green primary, Peñalosa had won 2 million votes himself, but in the election he lost a bit less than half of that – only left with a bit over 1 million votea. He did not endorse any candidate in the runoff and kept silent – maybe an honourable thing to do, but politically stupid because he became irrelevant (while Ramírez and López kept their relevance).
The first round ‘defeat’ shook up the Santos campaign – it proved to be a major warning call to the President’s reelection campaign, which seems to have awoken them to the risk that he could lose reelection if things didn’t change. Germán Vargas Lleras, who was more centre stage in the first round campaign, was sidelined and former President César Gaviria (1990-1994) – who has retained a major role in Liberal backrooms since then – took the reins of the campaign, which proved to be a good thing for the campaign (and a boon for the Liberal Party, which had kind of gotten shafted when Santos picked Vargas Lleras his running mate). The Santos campaign more or less adopted two, quite contradictory, strategies: appealing to the left (on the theme of peace) and bolstering the positions of the Unidad Nacional‘s caciques in the reelection campaign (as the congressional elections showed, they are the main strength of the U and the other parties, rather than any high-profile national stars). The message also became extremely clear: peace. Santos’ campaign sought to draw a black-white dichotomy between Santos (peace) and Zuluaga (war) – in campaign ads, like the one shown below, the message was that there was ‘only one choice’ – between peace (associated with flowery and colourful images of happy daily life or Colombia’s beauty) and war (a shock, grayscale image of a body bag or rows of graves in a cemetery). Santos’ supporters in the press often painted Uribe as a fascist warmonger, a ‘criollo Rasputin’ or ‘Terminator’ and his allies as obedient sheep. On the other hand, though, Uribe’s allies in the press insinuated that Santos was going to surrender to the FARC.
Ramírez, López and their respective parties found themselves as the main kingmakers for a very closely disputed second round. It also happened that both of their parties were deeply divided, and that the candidate’s word was not gold.
Ramírez’s rivals within the Conservative Party were taken aback by her success, but they remained firmly in the santista camp. Ramírez and her ramirista followers pushed for an official endorsement of Zuluaga by the party, claiming that there was more common ground with him than there was with Santos and because they opposed Santos’ reelection. Santos’ supporters in the party sought to prevent the Conservatives from officially endorsing Zuluaga, which would give them more leeway to use their machines to back Santos. Furthermore, these congressmen have little to no experience in actually being in the opposition, given that they’ve been in government (officially or unofficially) for the good part of the last 15 years, and that they have no taste to abandon the perks of power. Many santista Conservatives also feared that if Ramírez broke all bridges with the Unidad Nacional by endorsing Zuluaga, angry members of the Unidad Nacional coalition would be out for blood and would punish Conservative congressmen by denying them committee chairmanships or the like. Ultimately, the different factions of the Conservative Party resolved to go their separate ways. On May 28, over 30 Conservative congressmen officially endorsed Santos. Ramírez officially endorsed Zuluaga. As a result of Ramírez’s endorsement, Zuluaga took a more moderate and pragmatic tone on the issue of the peace talks – the text of the deal signed between the two candidates made no mention of Zuluaga’s previous maximalist conditions (giving the FARC an unrealistic 8 days to declare a verifiable and permanent cease-fire), and instead read that the new government would evaluate the agreements reached to date and ask the FARC to show goodwill to continue the talks (these ‘signs of goodwill’ being more or less the conditions which Ramírez’s first round campaign had laid out). Zuluaga downplayed the implications of his pragmatic shift, styling his (new) policy as ‘peace without impunity’. Many noted that Zuluaga’s less dogmatic stances threatened to weaken Santos’ runoff argument that it was a black and white battle between war and peace.
As this graphic shows, a large chunk of the Conservative caucus sided with Santos – powerful veteran Senator Roberto Gerlein (from Atlántico, he has served since 1974), Senator Efraín Cepeda (Atlántico), Senator Hernán Andrade and Senator-elect Laureano Acuña (also from Atlántico). Ramírez-Zuluaga’s supporters included senators Nora García Burgos, Myriam Paredes, Javier Mauricio Delgado, Jorge Hernando Pedraza and Conservative leader Ómar Yepes.
The Polo was similarly divided between those who wanted to endorse Santos to defend the peace negotiations and those who opposed any endorsement of the incumbent because of ideological differences (usually economic issues). Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, the most voted senator in March, led those who argued that Santos and Zuluaga were two sides of the same coin and that the Polo, therefore, should endorse no candidate (Robledo personally endorsed a voto en blanco). Senator Iván Cepeda led those members of the Polo, more focused on peace issues than economic issues, who supported Santos’ reelection to protect the prospect of peace. A few days after the first round, the Polo officially decided to not endorse any candidates and leave their voters free to choose. This position sought to conciliate the two opposing tendencies within the parties – the anti-santista one led by Robledo, emphasizing the lack of common ground with Santos on economic issues (who argue that peace is not sufficient reason to endorse Santos); and one led by Iván Cepeda and Clara López, emphasizing the shared commitment to peace (arguing that there is a real, historic need to defend the peace process, and to keep the uribistas out). López’s running mate, Aída Avella, who comes from the UP, shared the latter position.
Clara López, however, decided not only to publicly endorse Santos but to campaign for him and appear in a TV ad for him. Robledo, understandably angry, accused her of breaking the Polo’s agreement, but even soft strategic santistas/anti-uribistas within the Polo were visibly bothered by López’s very public support of the incumbent President. Others in the Polo criticized López and Santos for appropriating the symbols and logo of the party for Santos’ runoff campaign – for instance, there was lots of unease about the use of the Polo’s logo on Santos campaign banners.
Santos was therefore quite successful in giving his runoff campaign the appearance of a broad, civic movement for peace backed by parts of the left and the right. In addition to Clara López and other members of the Polo/UP, the Santos campaign publicized the endorsements of Antanas Mockus (who had been defeated by Santos in 2010), well-known former FARC hostage and 2002 presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, Progressives Senator Antonio Navarro Wolff (one of the Colombian left’s most well-known figures, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla group until its 1990 demobilization who became a leading politician afterwards) and Green Senator-elect Claudia López (the most voted Green candidate in March, who has worked on election observation and investigating corruption and parapolitics). Claudia López, however, in her campaign ad for Santos, underlined that she was only endorsing the President to support the peace talks.
The other, much less publicized aspect of Santos’ reelection campaign was activating the Unidad Nacional‘s lucrative and powerful network of party bosses and regional caciques – including strategic, opportunistic alliances with corrupt caciques which the Santos campaign did not want to be made public. Under Santos’ administration, millions in state funds have been doled out to congressmen by ministries, parastatals and government agencies – the (in)famous mermelada (marmalade), as it has been known in Colombia. The system, described in great detailed by an article from La Silla Vacía, works as follows: government officials negotiate directly with individual congressmen, giving them a ‘quota’ in pork-barrel spending; the congressmen turn around and inform local mayors of the amounts conceded so that they may submit project requests (which get approved and funded from various public sources); the contractor who wins the contract is usually pre-determined and is a local ally who pays a commission to the congressmen. The system operates so that it benefits everybody: the government effectively ‘buys’ the votes of congressmen with marmalade, the local mayors return the favour by getting out the vote for their local cacique and contractors usually get a good deal as well. The government defends itself by saying that marmalade is no different from traditional public investment – of course, omitting to mention that marmalade is a very opaque process and absolutely not transparent. U Senators Ñoño Elías and Musa Besaile, political bosses from the Caribbean department of Córdoba, are usually known as being the ‘champions’ of marmlades (ingesting millions of dollars in marmalade). To prove how well it pays off, both men were the most voted U senators nationally in March – with particular strength in Córdoba (where they allowed the U to win 41.2%), although Musa Besaile has used his share of marmalade to build personal networks in other Caribbean departments (Sucre, Magdalena, Bolívar) and parts of Antioquia. The aforecited article details how these two senators increased their preferential votes in March 2014 in the municipalities treated to their marmalade.
Ñoño Elías and Musa Besaile were both shunned by the Santos campaign in the first round, because Santos did not want to show himself publicly with these two controversial posterchild of corruption. One even more embarrassing ally of the reelection campaign was Yahir Acuña, a representative-elect from Sucre and leader of his own family enterprise-cum-party, 100% Colombia (which won the most votes in Sucre in the election for representatives in March). Yahir Acuña, who also controls the two representatives for the Afro-Colombian minority in the Chamber, is a fascinating (and very controversial) figure: he is the former protégé of former governor Salvador Arana (now a convicted murderer in the parapolitics scandal, serving 40 years), has close ties to other unsavoury figures of local politics (local businesswoman ‘La Gata’, now convicted for links to paramilitaries and for homicide) and is himself suspected of parapolitics (ties with the local AUC). Acuña aptly built alliances with no less than seven senatorial candidates in March 2014 (which is rare: usually, in Colombia, senators are the ones who back candidates for the lower house), allegedly offering them votes in exchange for money; in the congressional elections, Acuña convincingly imposed himself as the new cacique of Sucre (displacing the clan behind former senator Álvaro ‘El Gordo’ García and his wife, senator Teresita García; ‘El Gordo’ is serving a 40-year jail sentence for links to paramilitaries and masterminding a 2000 massacre which killed 15). Acuña managed to force his way into a first round campaign event with Germán Vargas Lleras (and appear in a picture with him), much to the displeasure of other santistas and Vargas Lleras.
Santos himself is personal friends with former U senator Piedad Zuccardi (currently on trial for parapolitics) and other figures of the García clan in Bolívar department (Juan José García, a former senator and original godfather of the clan – convicted for corruption and paramilitary ties, who is the brother of ‘El Gordo’ and in-laws with an extradited drug trafficker; their son, Andrés García Zuccardi, was elected to the Senate for the U in March). Despite the fact that both husband and wife are convicted or on trial for parapolitics, they were welcomed to the Santos campaign and attended several campaign events and ‘Juancho’ García retains significant influence (he successfully managed to get José David Name elected as President of the Senate – backed in this effort by former U senator Dilian Francisca Toro, indicted for money laundering on behalf of the Cali cartel).
Both Zuluaga and Santos courted the Civic Option, the latest incarnation of the National Integration Party (PIN), a ‘party’ founded and led by politicians tied to paramilitaries or relatives of such politicians. The party, which remains to this day a haven for convicted or suspected ‘parapoliticians’, their families and other criminals, still has 5 senators and 6 representatives. Zuluaga met with the Santander caucus of Civic Option (chaired by Senator Nerthink Mauricio Aguilar, the brother of current governor Richard Aguilar and the son of former governor Hugo Aguilar, arrested for parapolitics in 2011; the Aguilar clan are the local rivals of Liberal strongman Horacio Serpa), but he refused to ally with the Caribbean caucus of the party (which includes Teresita García, Acuña’s ally Julio Miguel Guerra and ‘La Gata”s ally Antonio Correa). The Civic Option gave no endorsement and decided to give its ‘members’ freedom to choose in the runoff – the costeños supported Santos, Mauricio Aguilar endorsed Zuluaga but his brother endorsed Santos (I guess the family wanted to put their eggs in both baskets).
Results – Second Round
The second round was held on June 15. Turnout was 47.89%, up from 40% in the first round and higher than the turnout in March or the last three presidential decisive rounds (runoff in 2010, first rounds in 2002 and 2006).
In total, 15.79 million out of 32.975 million potential voters participated. 15.34 million votes (97.1%) were valid – that is, votes for a candidate (96% of the valid votes) or a voto en blanco (4%). Not counted in these totals are invalid votes (2.6% of all votes cast) and unmarked ballots (0.3%). Results are calculated as a percentage of valid votes.
Juan Manuel Santos (UN) 50.95%
Óscar Iván Zuluaga (CD) 45.00%
Votos en blanco 4.03%
After a tough first round, President Juan Manuel Santos was reelected by a comfortable margin of about 6 points, defeating uribista candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga. However, the victory came at a heavy price for Santos: the campaign showed him to be a fairly week politician and administrator (especially when compared to Álvaro Uribe), he comes out of the 2014 electoral cycle with a much weaker majority in Congress and a reduced majority for himself and the opposition which comes out of 2014 is much stronger than the disparate mess of an opposition which come out of 2010.
The final section of this post (geographic analysis) will provide a detailed answer to the factors which allowed for Santos’ reelection, but to put it quickly, Santos owes his victory to the successful mobilization of first round left-wing voters in his favour in urban areas (especially in Bogotá, one of the few departments which switched from the first round, in his favour) and the Unidad Nacional‘s caciques showing their muscle and mobilizing their powerful political machines (above all in the Costa-Caribbean region) in the President’s favour (after many caciques had only half-assed it in the first round). Much of the turnout increased benefited the incumbent, especially in the Costa. Between the two rounds, Santos’ vote total increased from 3.3 million to 7.81 million – a gain of over 4.5 million votes, from abstention and the Polo, Greens or Conservatives.
Therefore, Santos is indebted to a lot of people as he begins his second term: the caciques (who is not fond of, but must live with), the left (whose support was only strategic and ephemeral) and the Liberal Party (thanks to César Gaviria and other Liberal bosses, who contributed a lot to his victory).
The reelected President faces a number of major challenges in the next four years: a difficult and tortuous peace process with the FARC/ELN, which he would like to finalize before 2015; economic challenges including inequalities and natural resources and corruption. He will need to face these challenges with a reduced congressional majority, and a much stronger and vocal opposition led from the Senate by Uribe himself.
Álvaro Uribe, and Zuluaga, were winners despite losing. Lacking almost all the advantages of the Unidad Nacional – the state apparatus, the political machinery of the caciques, access to the marmalade, the support of most of the media and a good part of the business circles, Uribe’s CD nevertheless managed to impose itself as the leading opposition party to Santos, winning 6.9 million votes (45%) in the second round – that is, an additional gain of over 3.1 million votes from Zuluaga’s first round total (3.75 million), despite most of the left (Polo) and Greens being against him and his potential reserve (Ramírez’s Conservative votes) being only a bit less than 2 million. The 2015 regional and municipal elections will likely confirm the CD as the leading opposition force in Colombia, especially on the back of the CD’s strong results in Antioquia and Medellín. Some have suggested that the emergence of a clear, ideologically coherent right-wing around uribismo and the CD will lead to a realignment of Colombian politics, perhaps following the model of post-Pinochet Chilean politics with the broad-based Concertación coalition opposing a right which is off-putting to many. At the same time, however, given that the caciques and their politics of clientelism were the other main winners of 2014, it is unlikely that Colombia will move towards Chile’s tradition of strongly ideological and party-based politics (which remains fairly unique for South America).
Crucial to Santos’ support in both rounds were the patronage machines of the caciques in the Costa region (departments of La Guajira, Cesar, Magdalena, Atlántico, Bolívar, Sucre and Córdoba). Santos won all of these departments by comfortable margins in both rounds – the main, key difference being that turnout in the Costa in May was low (lower than in March) and Santos failed to capture all the votes cast for the Unidad Nacional in March. For example, in the department of Córdoba, the U – with senators Ñoño Elías and Musa Besaile – had won over 270,000 votes in March but Santos won only 206,000. In the second round, the most notable increases in turnout were registered in the Costa (according to the Observatorio de Procesos Electorales, turnout increased from 30% to 44% in the region); an analysis by the Foro Ecónomico found a very strong positive correlation between higher turnout and support for the President (estimating that about 90% of ‘new voters’ backed Santos).
Santos won his best result in the second round in Atlántico, where he won 78.2% against 20.1% for Zuluaga (he had already won 48% in May) – between the two rounds, Santos increased his vote intake from a bit less than 195k to about 541.5k (including an increase from 81.8k to 267.6k in Barranquilla, the departmental capital). Turnout, which was only 24.3% in May, surged to 41.4% in June. While Zuluaga also increased his own vote share from May, it is quite clear that Santos’ massive gains between both rounds in the department played a key role to his regional and national victory (his margin of victory in Atlántico came close to cancelling out Zuluaga’s margin of victory in Antioquia – the second most populous department, while Atlántico is only the fifth). In Atlántico, Santos had the support of the entire local political machinery and caciques – Conservative senators Roberto Gerlein, Efraín Cepeda, Laureano Acuña; the Char dynasty (now represented by CR senator Arturo Char); U senators José David Name and Miguel Amín Escaf and Liberal senator Álvaro Ashton. La Silla Vacía examined the Atlántico ‘phenomenon which gave the victory to Santos’, and cited other factors including government investments following 2010 floods, fear of paramilitaries and a voto de opinión (ideological vote, not ‘tied down’ by the caciques) in Barranquilla (where López won over 16% in the first round).
Santos also triumphed in the second round by wide margins in Magdalena (67.7% vs 30.7%), La Guajira (71.1% vs 27.3%), Cesar (60.6% vs 37.3%), Sucre (60.1% vs 38.3%) and Córdoba (63.6% vs 34.9%), while his tightest margin came from Bolívar (58% vs 39.7%). The President had already done well in the first round, percentage-wise, breaking 50% in Córdoba and Magdalena, but a significant increase in turnout (from 36% to 52.3% in Córdoba) in these departments meant that Santos built up his margin of victory. It was largely thanks to the support of the region’s powerful caciques: Ñoño Elías and Musa Besaile (U, Córdoba), the García-Zuccardi clan (U, Bolívar), Yahir Acuña (100% Colombia, Sucre), the Gnecco clan (Cesar, led by U senator José Alfredo Gnecco, allied with former governor of La Guajira ‘Kiko’ Gómez, arrested for murder in 2013), Sandra Villadiego (U, Bolívar, wife of parapolitician Miguel Ángel Rangel), Yamina Pestana (Conservative, Sucre/Córdoba, heir of her imprisoned brother) and the inconvenient allies from the Civic Option (from Sucre: Julio Miguel Guerra Sotto, Teresita García Romero and La Gata’s senator Antonio Correa). After being snubbed by the President in the first round, the reelection campaign kicked into full gear and activated these cacique’s powerful GOTV operations.
Of course, not all the costeño vote comes from caciques and not all caciques are costeños. There was a significant voto de opinión for Zuluaga and López in the region – Zuluaga, in the first round, placed first in Cartagena (30.1% vs. 24.9% for Santos and a solid 20.1% for López; he lost 41 to 55 on June 15) and López won solid results in Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta. Zuluaga had much less machine support (he had some from Conservatives Nora García and David Barguil in Córdoba, a part of the Guerra clan in Sucre around CD senator Maria del Rosario) although he did have some solid bases with cattle ranchers and businessmen in the cities. In the second round, Santos successfully built an amusing alliance uniting the caciques with left-wing activists.
The strongest uribista margin came from the department of Antioquia, the second-most populous department in Colombia centered around Medellín and its valley. The department, which is Uribe’s home turf (he was governor of Antioquia before becoming President), is the stronghold of the CD – uribismo and anti-santismo are very strong in the department, the CD’s senatorial bench is large here (6 senators, led by Álvaro Uribe himself), uribismo is supported by the networks of former governor Luis Alfredo Ramos (now in jail, his son is a CD senator) and the ideological draw of Uribe easily cancelled out the weak machinery backing Santos. In the first round, Zuluaga won 37.5% in Antioquia against 16.2% for Santos, who landed third behind Ramírez (18.9%); in Medellín, Santos placed fourth with only 10% behind Zuluaga at 39.5%, Ramírez at 19.5% and López at 16.2%. In the Medellín suburbs of Bello and Itagüí – despite backing from local Conservative senators – Santos only placed fourth. However, thanks to a mobilization of the vote led by César Gaviria, Santos did manage to close the gap in the second round – Zuluaga still won clearly, 57.8% to 35.8% (and 63% to 29% in Medellín), but Santos grew his vote from 286k to 704.1k, and made some significant gains in Medellín’s metro Valle de Aburrá. However, despite support from parts of the Conservative machines in the Medellín metro and Oriente, Santos still lost badly – uribismo was stronger than any machine support (which was weak and disorganized, compared to the massive GOTV efforts in the Costa). The incumbent President dominated the more remote regions of Urabá and the Bajo Cauca (the far west and north of the department respectively), where the political machines are stronger.
Bogotá, Colombia’s capital and largest city, was the major battleground and a major factor in Santos’ reelection. In the first round, it was practically a free-for-all in the capital: Zuluaga won 22.1% (although this was a poor result, below the CD’s senatorial result in March), López won 20.4% (and placed first in several neighborhoods), Santos won 18.1%, former Green mayor Enrique Peñalosa won 16% and Ramírez won 14.9% (considered a strong result given Conservative weakness in the city). Like in other regions, Santos’ first round campaign was a mess but the runoff campaign was much better coordinated and orderly – around Carlos Fernando Galán (CR senator, son of Luis Carlos Galán), Gina Parody (2011 mayoral candidate, now minister of education), David Luna (an adviser to the President), Armando Benedetti (U senator, known as an advocate of progressive causes and LGBT rights in the U), Germán Varón (CR senator) and others from the Liberal Party. The runoff campaign could also count on strong support from the left – mayor Gustavo Petro, who endorsed Santos before the first round, Clara López (who is now often cited as a leading mayoral candidate for 2015) and other organizations (the UP, Marcha Patriótica, some Greens, trade unions, LGBT rights movements). Zuluaga could count on the support of ‘Pacho’ Santos (a potential mayoral candidate for the CD in 2015), the anti-Petro movement in the capital and the second round endorsement of Marta Lucía Ramírez – on top of the image of Álvaro Uribe, popular in Bogotá like in much of Colombia.
In the second round, both candidates made impressive gains in Bogotá – Santos from 444k to 1.337 million and Zuluaga from 542.4k to 1.075 million – but Santos won, 52.5% to 42.2%, making Bogotá one of the few close races in the country.
Bogotá’s result symbolized the other key aspect of the Santos reelection: attracting voters who had supported the left in the first round, as well as some Conservatives. In other regions of Colombia where López had done well in the first round, Santos clearly dominated in the runoff. In the first round, López had placed first in a number of communities in the Catatumbo region of the Norte de Santander department, the region of campesino leader (and now Polo senator) Alberto Castilla; in the runoff, Santos won over 80% in the three municipalities won by López. As a result, Santos, who had lost the department by 3 to Zuluaga in May won it by 4 in June. In the first round, the Polo’s candidate had placed first in the oil refineries city of Barrancabermeja in Santander (with 32.1% against 29.2% for Santos); in the runoff, Santos won 74.2% in the city. The department of Santander, where Santos could also rely on the old (but weakened) networks of Liberal boss Horacio Serpa, was another department which switched from Zuluaga to Santos (53.2% to 43.1% for the CD candidate).
In the department of Cundinamarca, Santos – while losing 41.4% to 54.2% for Zuluaga – still made substantial gains from the first round, where he won only 17.9% and third place. Ramírez, the Conservative candidate, did very well in the department – 23.1% and second, and she thoroughly dominated most of the Bogotá savanna municipalities located in the high plateau north of the capital (which seems to be her native region). Her support extended in the department of Boyacá, where she won 20.6% (López actually placed second here, with 21%, thanks to the 2013 agrarian strike movement in the department). In both regions, while Ramírez’s vote largely went to Zuluaga (and López’s support for Santos), it is clear that the Conservative vote in May didn’t unanimously support Zuluaga.
The Foro Económico’s analysis, linked above, estimated that over 80% of López’s voters backed Santos in the runoff. Ramírez’s voters split, in majority, in Zuluaga’s favour but Santos attracted a fair share of her voters in the second round. Surprisingly, it also estimated that Peñalosa’s supporters largely supported Zuluaga.
Zuluaga dominated much of central and inland Colombia – besides Antioquia and Cundinamarca, he also dominated the Eje Cafetero (Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío), the Andean region (Tolima, Huila), the Llanos (Meta, Casanare, Vichada; defeated narrowly in Arauca) and parts of the Amazonian region (Caquetá, Guaviare and Amazonas). Most of these regions are strongly uribista, where the CD had already done well in March, and where the Unidad Nacional‘s machines are weaker or lack the GOTV capacity (although in many cases, including the Zuluaga bastions of Casanare and Huila, much of the local machines backed the President). In addition to the weakness of the local pro-government machines, Zuluaga also benefited from some support from local Conservatives – Samy Merheg (Risaralda, the brother of former senator Habib Merheg, under investigation for parapolitics), for example. Zuluaga’s second-best national result came from Huila (70.8%), an Andean department which was particularly hit by FARC violence in the past decade. His best result was from Casanare, a Llanos department (where I assume Zuluaga was supported by cattle ranchers and the oil industry), where he won 77.7% (Santos won less than 10% in Casanare in the first round) – Casanare was ironically Santos’ best department in 2010. Departments like Huila, Casanare, Meta and Arauca were also on the losing side of a recent royalties reform, which may have hurt relations between locals, mayors and the central government.
La Silla Vacía analyzed, after the first round, all departments won by Zuluaga and suggested some reasons for his success in each of them.
Casanare reveals a rather ironic, albeit unsurprising, aspect of this election: there was a negative correlation between Santos’ support in 2010 and his 2014 vote, but there was a strong positive correlation between Zuluaga’s 2014 support and Santos’ 2010 vote. This confirms that Santos’ 2010 vote – at least half of it (since Santos lost half of his 2010 vote in the first round) was an uribista vote which voted for Santos as he was Uribe’s candidate in 2010, but abandoned him to back Uribe’s candidate in 2014. Santos’ 2014 support was very different from his 2010 support – four years ago, he had an uribista map while this year he has a new santista map, including huge numbers in departments (such as Atlántico, Chocó, La Guajira etc) which were always rather anti-uribista and/or of Liberal tradition (while Zuluaga won most, but not all, of the core uribista departments and/or those with a Conservative tradition).
Zuluaga won in departments such as Caquetá, Casanare, Meta, Tolima and Huila which have been hurt by the armed conflict and FARC activity, but a closer analysis by La Silla Vacía of the results in the 76 municipalities which are the most affected by FARC violence actually backed Santos more heavily in both rounds (even in departments which voted for Zuluaga, such as Antioquia). In another analysis of atypical results at the local level, La Silla Vacía identified a few cases of FARC pressure in Santos’ favour in Nariño (on the Pacific coast). After the election, the CD denounced ‘over 200′ municipal results in which they claimed that there was FARC influence in Santos’ favour, but the CD’s numbers are clearly big over-exaggerations.
The other Amazonian departments were more supportive of Santos – the President won 70.5% in Vaupés and 54.6% in Guainía, and won the jungle in Amazonas (Zuluaga won thanks to the Amazon port city of Leticia) and most of Vichada. This may be due to strong support from indigenous organizations – about two-thirds of the population of Vaupés and Guainía are indigenous (the highest in the country), and other regions of Colombia with significant indigenous populations also backed Santos (La Guajira, which is 45% indigenous, and Cauca, which is 21.5% indigenous) thanks to strong support from indigenous organizations (ASI in Guainía, MAIS in Cauca).
On the Pacific coast, Santos clearly dominated. He won than 63.4% in Chocó, a remote and impoverished department with an overwhelmingly (82%) Afro-Colombian population; 72.1% in Cauca, which has large indigenous and Afro-Colombian minorities which heavily backed Santos; 66% in Nariño and – most importantly – 61.5% in the Valle del Cauca, the third-most populous department in the country (it includes the city of Cali).
In the Valle, Santos had won a mediocre 27.4% in the first round, with decent results from Ramírez (19.6%, who had support from local Conservatives), López (18.7%, who won second in Cali with 20.5% and Buenaventura) and Zuluaga (19%). Zuluaga received support from local Conservatives in the second round – freshman senator Javier Mauricio Delgado (the nephew of Conservative governor Ubeimar Delgado and the heir of his uncle senator César Tulio Delgado), who did well in March (especially in the Norte del Valle, culturally integrated with the uribista regions of the Eje Cafetero and Antioquia), and it would appear that a lot of Ramírez’s Conservative votes in the Norte del Valle did indeed flow well to Zuluaga on June 15. Santos, however, was supported by U senator-elect Roosevelt Rodríguez, who is the candidate of former U senator Dilian Francisca Toro, under investigation for money laundering of drug trafficking proceeds for the Cali cartel. With Toro’s machinery, Roosevelt Rodríguez was the most popular candidate in the Valle in March. In the runoff, Santos won thanks to the unification of the left-wing vote behind his candidacy – especially in Cali, where with López’s support (and part of Peñalosa’s 12%) he jumped from 24% to 61.8%; and strong support in the coastal city of Buenaventura (79.3%), a troubled Pacific port city which is overwhelmingly Afro-Colombian (89%) and unfortunately famous for the rife criminality, drug trafficking and its sky-high homicide rate.
In Cauca and Nariño, Santos won several near-unanimity results in several municipalities (over 90% of the vote), thanks to a mix of factors: Afro-Colombian support for Santos (desire for peace and autonomy), indigenous support (see above), Liberal machines, FARC influence (either pressure or a desire for peace) and a left-wing base in some places (Carlos Lozano, the leader of the Communist Party and Green senatorial candidate in March, did quite well in a few municipalities in Cauca).
Compared to the results of past presidential elections, particularly Uribe’s 2002 victory against Liberal candidate Horacio Serpa, there is an imperfect but still very perceptible correlation between anti-uribismo or Liberal votes and Santos’ support in 2014 (at the departmental, macro-level). The Caribbean departments are shown to be Liberal – in 2002, Horacio Serpa carried all of them, with the exception of Magdalena (which still voted for the Liberals in 1994 and 1998); Antioquia and, to a lesser extent, Bogotá and Cundinamarca are Conservative and uribista in 2002; the Eje Cafetero was traditionally Conservative prior to 2002 and voted very heavily for Uribe in 2002; Boyacá and Norte de Santander are Conservative; the Valle del Cauca voted Uribe by a wide margin in 2002 but had leaned to the Liberals in elections past; the Pacific coast, except Conservative Nariño, were Liberal (especially Chocó) and the Amazon regions were solidly Liberal until Uribe made major gains in 2002. In 2014, most departments which supported the Liberals over Uribe in 2002 voted for Santos while Zuluaga won most of Uribe’s 2002 departments, again with the leading uribista stronghold being Antioquia.
Colombia is certainly at a key moment in its history, with the peace negotiations with the FARC offering the prospect of some kind of peace while, politically, the return of uribismo as a major electoral force signals an interesting shakeup of the political system.