Where Is Colombia's Presidential Race Headed With Uribe Out?
Markus Schultze-Kraft, Inter-American Dialogue |
5 Mar 2010
Colombia's Constitutional Court on Feb. 26 ended the possibility of President Álvaro Uribe running for a third term by striking down a proposed referendum that would have asked voters to allow the popular president to seek another four years in office. What is the outlook for Colombia's presidential race now that Uribe is out of the running? Is his successor likely to continue the market-friendly policies that made Uribe a favorite of investors? Does the presidential transition pose a threat to Uribe's "democratic security" policy, which increased stability in Colombia and helped weaken FARC guerrillas?
Markus Schultze-Kraft, director of the International Crisis Group's Latin America and Caribbean Program in Bogotá: "The Constitutional Court's ruling is good for Colombia's democracy. The rule of law was upheld and the risk of a further weakening of the country's democratic checks and balances was controlled. The presidential race will take place on more equal grounds between the candidates who seek to step into Uribe's shoes and the political opposition. In the absence of its figurehead, it is likely that in the run-up to the first round on May 30 the Uribista camp splits up. At the same time, it is unlikely that the opposition will unite behind a single candidate. Colombia will therefore probably see a runoff election in June. That is in line with the country's polling history since the enactment of the 1991 constitution, with the exception of Uribe's landslide first-round victories in 2002 and 2006. It is positive that Colombia's state of political uncertainty has now ended and that democratic competition for the presidency can begin.However, due to the referendum issue, programmatic policy debate, including on Colombia's economic, security and foreign policy agendas, for the most,part has not taken pace.While the incumbent's would-be heirs are trying to capitalize on proposals of seamless policy continuity, the opposition and independent candidates are unlikely to seek a complete overhaul of the general policy framework of the previous years. It is paramount that the next administration build on the security gains attained under Uribe. But the security policy needs to be improved, especially with regard to rigorously upholding human rights and pursuing an integrated conflict resolution strategy. Much needs to be done also with respect to foreign and social policy."
Markus Schultze-Kraft heads and manages the Crisis Group Latin America and Caribbean program from Bogotá.