Featured Q&A: How Would a Third Uribe Term Impact Colombia?
Featured Q&A: How Would a Third Uribe Term Impact Colombia?
Op-Ed / Latin America & Caribbean 1 minutes

Featured Q&A: How Would a Third Uribe Term Impact Colombia?

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Sept. 8 signed legislation paving the way for a national referendum, in which voters would decide whether to allow Uribe to run for a third term. The country's Constitutional Court must first approve the measure before it can be sent to voters.

Mauricio Angel, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group in Bogota, addressed the following questions for Inter-American Dialogue's:

Is Uribe likely to secure a third term in office?

While recent polls show that Uribe's approval rating and public support for a third term have increased, the re-election process still has to overcome several hurdles: The Constitutional Court must rule favorably after reviewing all alleged irregularities involving accusations of illegal arrangements and pork-barrel given to legislators committed in the preparation of the legislation. The national registry office has to prepare the referendum. Finally, the referendum must be won with the majority of the votes (a minimum threshold of 7.3 million voters-one quarter of the electoral census-is required). Only then can Uribe decide whether or not to run for a third term in the May 2010 presidential elections.

What would be the costs and benefits of such a move?

Uribe's re-election carries the risk of undermining the country's democratic checks and balances as well as increasing political uncertainty and polarization in the run-up to the elections. Supporters of a third Uribe term believe his remaining in the post is the only thing that can ensure the continuation of the security policy, the defeat of the insurgents and strong leadership in times of growing tensions with Colombia's neighbors (Venezuela and Ecuador).

How would a third term for Uribe affect Colombia's relationship with the United States?

It is still too early to tell. The mainstream in Washington sees Uribe as a respected ally who is facing a nasty insurgency and drug-trafficking threat. However, criticism of Uribe from the human rights NGO community has been strong and generally justified. No matter how his supporters try to spin it, changing the rules halfway through to benefit him raises concerns over a deterioration of Colombia's still functioning liberal and representative democratic system.

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