The presidential campaign in Colombia is heading for a competition between coalitions. With more than a score of applicants, the path will only clear in March, when the unique candidates are chosen from three large blocks of left, center and right grouped in their respective alliances. At the start of the intense electoral year, with the first round set for May 29, it seems only a matter of time before Oscar Iván Zuluaga, the candidate of the Democratic Center, the government party founded by former president Álvaro Uribe, who is going through his longest hours. casualties, I landed in the so-called Team for Colombia, the coalition farthest to the right. Although it is not yet official, the doors are open and the Conservatives have already reached out to him.
At a time when the flag of change is trading higher, it is the most continuous alliance. While the leftist Gustavo Petro leads all the polls and is the rival to beat at the head of the Historical Pact, forged to suit him, Sergio Fajardo usually appears in second place, with a certain advantage to win the candidacy of the Centro Esperanza Coalition. In the Team for Colombia, which has a considerable territorial deployment in its favor, there is not yet such a clear favorite, although a close fight is anticipated between the former mayors Federico Gutiérrez, of Medellín; Alejandro Char, from Barranquilla; and Enrique Peñalosa, from Bogotá. They are accompanied by the former Minister of Finance Juan Carlos Echeverry, the former governor of the department of Valle del Cauca Dilian Francisca Toro and the Conservative Party candidate, Senator David Barguil.
After several meetings they have not come to define the arrival of Zuluaga, Uribe’s former finance minister, although they have not ruled it out either. Some resistance still persists. In December, in one of the first debates – organized by Caracol Televisión and La Silla Vacía – the four attendees were asked if they wanted him to join the coalition for a yes or no answer. Barguil was in favor and Echeverry against, while Gutiérrez and Peñalosa chose not to answer. Dilian Francisca Toro was absent because she is not yet considered a candidate, and although Char has avoided debates and interviews, her family maintains good relations with former President Uribe.
Omar Yepes, the president of the traditional Conservative Party, whose candidate is Barguil, has sought to end this indecision. “Former President Uribe and his followers are also a guarantee of democracy, security, freedoms, and a drive for development based on private property,” he said on his social networks on the eve of the new year, by publicly inviting the Democratic Center.
Zuluaga, who was already a presidential candidate for Uribism in 2014, when he was close to thwarting the re-election of Juan Manuel Santos, has not been indifferent to those gestures. “You have to be united and join forces in a team where there is successful management experience,” he responded to Yepes. He has always been appreciative of this alliance, which was initially called the “Coalition of Experience”, and has highlighted his “affinity and friendship” with some of its members. Uribism wants to continue being a government, even if it is more like a wagon than a locomotive. Zuluaga’s aspiration drags both the unpopularity of President Iván Duque and the erosion of the image of Uribe, his political mentor. In the most recent measurement of the Invamer firm, 71% of those surveyed disapproved of Duque’s work and 67% had an unfavorable image of the once popular Uribe, the most staunch opponent of the Santos government and the peace accords with the FARC . Uribe’s favorable image in that same study fell to 19%, its lowest level in 25 years of measurements.
“None of the candidates of the right-wing coalition has taken off in the polls and they desperately need a nod from Uribismo, and Uribismo knows from the beginning of this campaign that with the Duque Government’s balance sheet it cannot reissue the results of 2018,” points out Yann Basset, professor of Political Science at the Universidad del Rosario. “It is difficult for the right wing to win the presidency without the support of the Democratic Center, which continues to be a relatively disciplined party, with voting discipline”, he adds.
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Although all are located in the ideological antipodes of Petro, the eventual entry of the Democratic Center, with more extreme ideas, would take the Equipo por Colombia more decisively to the right. It could also accentuate the differences around the implementation of the peace agreement, which to a greater or lesser extent have supported the current candidates, among whom there is a former minister of Santos (Echeverry). “The issue of peace has been very prominent in previous campaigns but it will not be in this one, because we have a very great challenge in the economic reactivation of the country, in the fight against corruption and insecurity, which are star issues on the right that are going to be taking over the agenda ”, predicts Basset. “In the end, the peace accords are already signed and will be implemented. I don’t think it is an issue that is going to fracture a right-wing alliance ”.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.