997 people want to be Senators and another 1,562 want to be Representatives to the House
View of a debate in the Colombian Congress, in a file photograph. EFE / Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

Bogotá, Jan 13 (EFE).- Two months before the legislative elections of March 13, Colombians see with hope the promises of change that can come out of those elections, crucial for the governance of the president who is elected in the middle of the year.

The entire Senate and the House of Representatives will be renewed in these elections, in which there will also be an unprecedented vote to choose the 16 seats that the Special Transitory Circumscriptions of Peace will have in the Lower House, and several coalitions will elect in consultation with their presidential candidates.

This electoral appointment will take place after the wave of protests that shook the country between April and June 2021, which revealed the need for changes and opened the doors of politics to new leaders from the academic world and social movements.

Among these new faces, the political analyst and university professor Sandra Borda, the journalist Mabel Lara, the social leader and human rights defender Yolanda Perea and the athlete Caterine Ibargüen, a gold medalist in triple jump at the Olympic Games, stand out as candidates for the Senate. Rio 2016.

CHANGE VS. CLIENTELISM

For Alejandra Barrios, director of the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) platform, the legislative elections will show if the desire for change on the part of society comes true or if it is shipwrecked in the waters of patronage that traditionally makes itself felt at the polls.

“We are going to see it on March 13 because patronage is there, patronage works, it is a very well-oiled machine and unfortunately centralism grows in poverty, and poverty deepened in this country with the pandemic,” Barrios told Eph.

Another factor that often affects elections is violence against candidates, voters and social leaders to intimidate and prevent the right to vote from being freely exercised.

“In the local elections, which will be next year, is where this phenomenon in a particular way is triggered because it is the struggle for territorial power, but the congressional elections are the ones that occupy the second level, in terms of violence, against those who can apply to political life, “he says.

Barrios points out that in this year’s elections, both legislative and presidential, “we are in a context that is not easy” because there are departments such as Chocó (west), Arauca (east) and the Catatumbo region, where different groups illegal armed groups have intensified their territorial disputes.

“We maintain the same corridors of violence that are directly related to the illegal economies and to the dispute between the different armed groups and that translates into the impossibility for both candidates and citizens to freely participate in the electoral exercise,” he explains .}

Parliamentary election
Pedestrians pass by an electoral fence this January 12 in Bogotá (Colombia). EFE / Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

SEATS FOR VICTIMS

This conflict dynamics may also influence the election of the so-called “peace seats” for the House of Representatives, to which victims of the armed conflict can only aspire for two four-year legislative periods, which begins in 2022 and of 2026.

For this purpose, special constituencies were created in the 16 regions hardest hit by the conflict, each of which may elect a representative to the Chamber in votes from which the 167 municipal seats were excluded and which will only take place in the zones rural areas, which are precisely those that have suffered the most from violence.

One of those peace districts, number two, is made up of the municipalities of Arauquita, Fortul, Saravena and Tame, in the department of Arauca, where in the first days of this year the war between FARC dissidents and ELN guerrillas left at least 27 dead in rural areas.

“This issue is relevant because social leaders who are victims are being asked to campaign in rural areas where there is no state presence to be elected to the 16 seats. This will measure the institutional capacity of the Colombian State to reach these areas where the FARC was present ”before the signing of the peace agreement, Barrios emphasizes.

Parliamentary election
A man on a bicycle passes an electoral fence this January 12 in Bogotá (Colombia). EFE / Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

DECISIVE COALITIONS

In any case, the Congress that Colombians choose will be fundamental for whoever is elected president for the 2022-2026 period, because they will need the legislature to carry out the changes or reforms that society has demanded in the streets and will surely ask again in the streets. urns.

«In April of last year we had a social outbreak that has had a very strong impact in terms of citizen participation, in public expression, I am not going to say that in politics because we still do not know. One thing is what happens in the streets and it is not known if that is going to translate into the polls, “says Barrios.

To date, all the polls have favored the left-wing opposition senator Gustavo Petro, who on March 13 must be ratified in a consultation as a candidate for the Historic Pact coalition.

That same day, the consultation of the Centro Esperanza Coalition will be held, whose favorites are the former Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria and the former presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo, and that of the right-wing Team for Colombia, in which the most optioned seems to be the former mayor of Medellín Federico Gutiérrez.

“The coalitions that are being formed, I honestly do believe that they are going to modify the composition of Congress because there is no longer a reading only by parties but there are large coalitions that are glued to the presidential candidacies,” said the director of the MOE.

Jaime Ortega Carrascal

Leave a Reply