Four Months Until Colombia’s Election: Is President Uribe Already Running?

January 21, 2010

by Mateo Samper

It’s hard to believe that President Uribe won’t run for a third term after more than two years of keeping the country in political limbo. In yet another sign that he wants to be re-elected for a third term, he is now stopping the TV transmission of his weekly communal council meetings in towns across Colombia. This may yet be another signal that he does not want to have an unfair advantage over other candidates. Could his “soul” no longer be at the crossroads?

Not quite. He still hasn’t stated he is going to run. And yet, there are many practical reasons why he should not be able to do so—unless he unabashedly disregards the law.

In Colombia, the law says that candidates have until March 12to register their candidacy for the May 30presidential elections. For President Uribe to meet the deadline, he has to overcome some hurdles that many believe are practically insurmountable.

First, the Constitutional Court (CC) has to decide whether the re-election referendum—the first step since the constitution only permits two consecutive terms in office—is constitutional. Based on their usual procedural timeframes, their decision should not be expected any sooner than mid or late February—and that is pushing it.

Second, even if the CC delivers a favorable and early decision, the organism in charge of putting together the referendum (the Registraduría Nacional, RN) will not have time to organize the country-wide vote. The current head of the RN, Carlos Ariel Sanchez, has said it would take him at least three months to pull it off. By these two counts alone, the president cannot and will not meet the March 12 deadline.

He could register after the deadline, of course, but not without changing the rules. But as of yesterday, President Uribe had again said that he has no plans to alter the electoral calendar. Was he finally implying that he is not going to run? Why then is he stopping the transmission of his communal councils?

It’s certainly not the first time he’s been ambiguous about his re-election. However, for now, most Colombians look at him as a likely candidate.

After three long years of this political game, I think it’s clear that he will run again. If not, he would have already put an end to the speculation. In the end, he’ll have to alter the law, and he will argue again that he does so because it is what the people want—and perhaps even God.

The presidency is an institution, not a person. And another term in power would make the eventual transition shaky as the office would be highly tied to the person himself rather than the workings of the government. But that perhaps is old news. The most unfortunate reality is that there is a solid array of presidential candidates—most of them vowing to continue President Uribe’s policies on security and the economy. In the endless chatter about the president’s political limbo, these policies and proposals are going unheard.

If he is going to run, he should just say it now. At least then, people will be able to focus on the issues that are critical for Colombia’s long-term development and hear other alternatives.

*Mateo Samper is a contributing blogger to and was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He is senior editor of Americas Quarterly and director of public policy programs at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

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Tags: Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, Re-election

Evo Morales Re-elected In Bolivia, MAS Party Wins Senate Majority

December 7, 2009

by AQ Online

Bolivian President Evo Morales was elected for another five-year term on Sunday, winning 62.5 percent of the national vote and 78.5 percent in La Paz. With the previous constitution prohibiting consecutive re-election, it is the first time in 45 years that a Bolivian president will serve two consecutive terms. The runner-up, Manfred Reyes Villa of the Plan Progreso Bolivia-Convergencia Nacional party (PPB-CN), won 27.6 percent of votes nationally and 9.4 percent in La Paz.

The governing party, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) also obtained a majority of seats in the senate. Having won 24 seats, MAS now controls two-thirds of the chamber and has senators in regions that have traditionally opposed the president. The government has announced that its new senate majority will allow it to accelerate reforms. The first legislation that will be introduced on December 12 is a Federal Autonomy law (Ley Marco de Autonomía) that will shape the legal framework for the autonomy status of the nine departments, the region of Gran Chaco and 11 autonomous indigenous municipalities.

Morales announced today that under the terms of the 2009 constitution, which permits re-election to one additional term, this constitutes his first election: "If we talk of the new constitution... this is the first election of Evo Morales," he argued. Voters will return to the polls on April 4 for municipal and departmental elections.

Tags: Bolivia, Evo Morales, Re-election, Autonomy Status