- Luis Fajardo
- BBC Monitoring
This Sunday, Colombia experienced the strangest elections in its entire history.
In a country described for decades as the most conservative in the hemisphere, 70% of voters were disillusioned with the the current situation They gave no one, but Two strikes with an electoral tradition who spent two centuries electing a representative of “the same as always”.
What is expected to be a highly contested second round of the June 19 elections will face Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandezwhose projects raised the majority of voters in the first round.
They have little in common, except that they are the tangible manifestation of the “anti-system” vote, rejecting many of the strongholds of traditional Colombian politics.
A country that since the time of Simon Bolivar and its wars of independence has bragged about favoring moderate conservatives over extremists in politics, voted on Sunday for a left-wing leader who promises to bring about a radical economic democracy for the country.
On the other hand, the right expects a deep purification of the corruption that, in his opinion, corrupts Colombian democracy.
The great sacrifice of the day, of course, is Federico “Fico” GutierrezThe candidate of the right-wing coalition team from Colombia, representative of the “establishment” and traditional politics of the country, who took third place on Sunday, dropped out of the race to determine the next president.
For this situation to happen in Colombia, the long-term trends that were undermining the stability of the traditional political system on Sunday coincided with other, more urgent trends that led to its collapse.
There were also global trends with others of a very local nature. Everything converged to unleash the electoral hurricane that occurred Sunday.
The role of the epidemic
Primarily, the Colombian institutions designed from the 1991 constitution had a clear goal of integrating social, ethnic, and ideological diversity into the country’s political life.
The same Gustavo Petro He entered politics after his leftist guerrilla, M-19, signed a peace agreement with the Colombian state 32 years ago, around the same time that one of the region’s most secure constitutions was proclaimed.
since then, Year after year, many taboos are broken that restricted political participation and diversity in Colombia.
Pietro is betting on the position of vice president by Francia Marquez, a black woman and environmental activist.
There were also very powerful global economic currents that destabilized the country, and created the right situation to reject the current situation. And not going further, the pandemic triggered an economic crisis in 2020 and 2021 that left millions in poverty or on their doorsteps.
“The pandemic has triggered one of the worst employment crises in Colombia in more than a century,” Colombian professor and labor economist Juan Carlos Guateque told BBC Mundo.
But then, was this breakdown in the Colombian political tradition observed on Sunday inevitable? Many may say no. In addition to global and long-term factors, it was also local and situational reactions that determined the collapse.
Yes President Duque and the protests
With scant popular support, the government of the current Colombian president has eroded Evan Duke‘with very few results to show’, has helped accelerate the discredit of the prevailing system and ‘accelerate the consolidation of these independent movements’, I assure BBC Mundo Monica Passiona political scientist and professor at the University of Los Andes.
The political mistake made by the then Finance Minister, Alberto Carracquilla, in promoting at the beginning of 2021 the tax reform that threatened further taxes on a population mired in the stigma of the pandemic helped launch national strike April of that year, were the most violent protests the country had seen in nearly half a century.
At the same time, Dozens of civilians were killed in clashes with security forces During this national strike, they contributed to many saying they would never vote for the “usual votes” again.
In Cali, the city that has been the epicenter of this unrest, the results of the last parliamentary elections in March showed strong correlations between the neighborhoods in which the most violence was observed and the level of voting for the Petro-led opposition.
The results of the congressional elections show that Gustavo Petro [y su partido] The Colombian news portal La Silla Vacchia said in a tweet on April 22 that they were finally the ones who got the most electoral revenue from the 2021 strike against Ivan Duque’s government.
There has also been a failure in the current presidential campaign of many moderate centrist candidates such as Sergio Fajardo, Ingrid Betancourt and Alejandro Gaviriawhich, in the midst of the ongoing disputes between them, failed to show the voter a coherent and credible alternative.
On election night, Fajardo told the press in his country: “It was clear that Colombia wanted change.” But he was not able to convince Colombia that this change was going through him or his moderate colleagues.
The fall of uribismo and networks
And, of course, in the midst of the ruler’s defeat uribista . movement There is a clear political retreat for its supreme leader, the former president Alvaro Uribe. After two decades of being the embodiment of his country’s conservative establishment, the former president has spent this election cycle with relative caution, and few believe he is the most powerful political figure in the country.
None of these situations were inevitable. By all happening at once, they accelerated the Colombian transition to more polarizing policyevidenced by the election results on May 29.
A final factor helped make Sunday election fun possible: the emergence of social networks as a critical factor in the country’s political communication.
For decades, many traditional Colombian media outlets have prided themselves on being guardians and protectors of the institutional system. Today they have been replaced in their political importance by social networks, as many influencers were far from abiding by tradition.
As Colombian journalist and political analyst Maria Elvira Dozan told the BBC last April: “It’s the first time in Colombia that we’ve seen such an impact on social media. [en las elecciones]”.
The journalist then noted Petro and Hernández’s ability to mobilize voters using platforms such as TikTok.
Ironically, it was the Oribismo party and the current ruling party, the Democratic Center, that a few years ago gave the first big lesson in the political usefulness that these social networks can have during their fierce opposition to the peace process with the FARC and the government. Who supported him, from the then president Juan Manuel Santos.
When you are in opposition Peeing has been very effective in conveying the feeling of discontent through social networks About the doubts and fears arising from the peace process.
In 2016, shortly after the majority of Colombians voted “no” in a referendum on the peace process with the rebels, which former President Uribe opposed, one of the leaders of his movement, Juan Carlos Vélez, admitted to Colombian newspapers the effective strategy. From messages he sent through social networks: “We were looking for people to come out and vote, pig [expresión coloquial colombiana para indicar “furiosa” o “enardecida”]”.
Six years later, in 2022, the places were changed. It was the opposition led by Petro and Hernandez that caused this feeling of discontent against the government and the “usual” party to spread through social networks.
Rodolfo Hernandez, the savior of the status quo?
For many in the Colombian ruling class, there is no doubt about the situation that arose after the May 29 elections Rodolfo Hernandez It is the candidate who promises to save them from the radical left that his critics attribute to Petro.
This Sunday, the first election bulletin announcing his advantage over Fico Gutierrez didn’t end when Several ‘founding’ figures sided with Hernandez.
In a tweet, former congressman and presidential candidate of the Democratic Center of Oribesta, Maria Fernanda Cabal declared: “The country needs changes, not the suicide offered by Petro, but the power, order and prosperity offered by a businessman like engineer Rodolfo Hernandez.”
But it is not clear whether this candidate, a man of humble origins who built his image by branding the traditional political class as corrupt, is ready to become its instrument.
Hernandez by not participating in coalitions [de partidos políticos tradicionales en el actual proceso electoral]He has shown that he is not interested in participating in that policy. They invited him to those coalitions and he said no,” Monica Passione told BBC Mundo.
Although, as Bacon recalls, if Hernandez won the presidency, It will not have a single legislator to officially represent it in cNational Conference. Therefore, it would be difficult for him to rule without some form of support from that traditional ruling class that today proclaims himself the last savior in the midst of the astonishing collapse of the Colombian flagship.
Whatever the outcome of next June 19, The balance of power has just changed in Colombia.
The oldest ruling class in the hemisphere, the same class that has endured through the centuries in that South American country, will now have to adapt to a different and inevitably diminishing role.
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