Monday, March 13, 2006

Thoughts on Sunday’s Colombian legislative elections

+I honestly did not expect the political movements backing president Uribe to have gained as many seats as they did. According to estimates this morning, the Uribistas were projected to win about 70% of legislative seats up for election! Recent polls indicated that they would have a difficult time getting half of the seats in the Senate, much less a majority in both houses.

+Though it pains me to say, kudos must be given to Juan Manuel Santos and “El Partido de la U” for their campaign. They won the most seats in congress and did so through a very thorough campaign to gain support and always going on the offensive. They had an enormous war chest to spend on advertising and getting the word out. Somehow they managed to distinguish their candidates from the other Uribistas from groups such as “Cambio Radical”.

+Can somebody please explain to me why anyone in the Liberal Party would choose Horacio Serpa as their presidential candidate? And by such an ample margin no less. He’s Colombia’s version of Neil Kinnock, for Christ’s sake! Please go away Horacio!

+Antonio Navarro Wolff buried his own grave weeks ago with his quitting as potential candidate for the “Polo Democratico” then returning less than a week later. For a politician as he seasoned as he is, he should have known that his pale imitation of Ross Perot would be disastrous. He needs to keep his personal aspirations in check and support Gustavo Petro. (Example: don’t declare in television interviews that he would never, ever run as a vice presidential candidate. Oh too late, he already did that this morning).

+I don’t believe what the Colombian media is saying over about the failure of candidates closely linked to paramilitary groups. For every Eleonora Pineda that lost, a Dieb Maloof won. (Even the son of Enilse Perez won a legislative seat, and his mom is currently in jail after being up to her armpits in being heavily involved with paramilitaries).

+I also don’t believe what the non-Colombian media claims in two areas:

1)Sunday’s election does not mean that Uribe will easily win reelection in May. Politics can be a fickle lover that can easily jilt you for someone else. Though Uribe can do no wrong in the eyes of the electorate, anything is still possible and one can never discount that he could mess up over the next 10 weeks.

2) the misconception that Uribe + an Uribista legislature = a formidable counterweight to leftist leaders (Bachelet, Chavez, Evo Morales). Leftist leaders in Latin America represent several spots on the left-wing political spectrum; they are not a monolithic force. To say that Uribe would counterarrest leaders on the left seems very far-fetched, even with support from the U.S.

+It should come as no surprise that only 35% of the electorate went out to vote since many believed the election was a done deal way before Sunday. Also, it’s not surprising that over one million votes were nullified mainly due to the confusing manner in which to fill out the voting sheets. One newscast I saw on Monday showed a nullified voting sheet because the voter drew one X on top of another for the party of his choice. Sadly, the system appeared to be rigged away from less educated (read: poor) voters who could not comprehend the silly details of filling out the voting sheet or having to memorize what number corresponded to which candidate. (Maybe I should not say that so loud since I voted in Florida during the 2000 U.S. presidential elections, and we all remember how fun that experience was).

+Finally, from a personal standpoint, I kind stand Uribe for various reasons; his strong ties to paramilitaries, placing far too much emphasis on military combat, lack of sufficient social development. (Even his constant name-calling of guerillas as “bandidos” makes him sound less presidential and more like a small child trying to insult a bully). However, the reality is that Sunday’s legislative elections gave him a big boost for his reelection bid and will give him a green light to pass any of his proposals. This is his election to lose and it certainly looks like it won’t happen.

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