Santos clings to slim lead in Colombian elections as Uribe exploits fears in peace talks
Colombia´s congressional elections revealed Sunday a deeply divided nation: A country desperate to leave behind 50 years of war, but also a nation suspicious of attempts to negotiate a peace accord with FARC rebels.
President Juan Manuel Santos has bet his political future on negotiating a peace accord with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia and he retained a slim lead over resurgent former president Álvaro Uribe in the Senate. Santos´s Partido de la U took 21 seats, while Uribe´s Centro Democrático took 19.
The setback for Santos will leave the future of peace negotiations dependent upon Colombia´s other elected parties: The Liberals which generally favour Santos have 17 seats, while the Conservatives have 19.
The remaining seats are distributed among the Cambio Radical, with nine seats, the Partido Verde, with five, Opción Ciudadano with five and Polo Democrático with five.
Polo Democrático which has fought relentlessly to represent human rights and Colombia´s some six million displaced persons was perhaps the largest disappointment. It lost three senators, while Uribe´s right-wing Centro Democrático came out of nowhere and almost stole the election.
Though the left-of-centre party is reduced in numbers, the coalition could give it some influence in the four years before the next election.
Colombians desperate for peace were shocked by the blow, but it was obvious before the election on Sunday that Colombia remained a nation sharply conflicted.
Polls published the day before the vote revealed some 66 per cent of Colombians supported peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas, but 52 per cent had doubts whether the FARC guerrillas were sincerely looking to negotiate an end to the conflict.
Perhaps most revealing was the finding that some 78 per cent of Colombians opposed the government´s plan to give FARC guerrillas the opportunity to return to political life in return for giving up armed struggle.
The FARC guerrillas are expected to be guaranteed temporary representation in Colombian political life as part of an overall agreement, if one can be reached.
Some 78 per cent of Colombians were in disagreement with that proposal.
The seemingly contradictory results have Colombian politicians and analysts attempting to make sense of Colombia´s congressional elections as they prepare for the presidential elections in May.
More succinct and more clear than the tortured rationalizations in the press on Monday was the explanation offered by a woman working in a Popayán laundry, who said she was exceptionally happy with the rebuke Santos received Sunday´s.
“I voted for Santos, but I didn´t like his attitude,” she explained.
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