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Colombia: Local Elections and Uribe's Influence

Photo by Dfinnecy and used under Creative Commons license

On Sunday 28 October, Colombians went to the polls to elect their local mayors, council members, and deputies to the departments’ assemblies. These run-up to these elections were marked by violence against candidates. In some regions, political alliances that were quite unlikely one year ago, now were made possible, whereas some independent candidates won some important posts in big cities (such as Medellín or Cartagena). In Bogotá, despite a huge gaffe [ES] on a television debate one week earlier, where the candidate admitted that he would “buy votes” in order to save the city from other candidate who buys a thousand times more votes, “leftist” Samuel Moreno Rojas became the new Mayor. That election also witnessed a ‘dirty campaign’ against Rojas and his main competitor Enrique Peñalosa, which included the surfacing of old interviews and even the hidden “endorsement” of President Uribe to Peñalosa. Incidentally, Moreno is grandson to Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, Colombia's only dictator in the 20th century.

Plan Colombia and Beyond has an excellent summary on the elections, if you want to know the details. A slightly different, but quite interesting, point of view can be found at Bloggings by Boz.

On the local blogosphere, there were mixed reactions. At Atrabilioso [ES], journalist Jaime Restrepo refers to the victory of Moreno Rojas in Bogotá:

Samuel Moreno Rojas ganó… y de lejos, con una votación histórica de más de 900 mil votos.

El triunfo del candidato del PDA a la alcaldía de Bogotá demuestra, en primer término, que Álvaro Uribe Vélez no tiene la potestad de endosar los votos.

Pese a los discursos que pronunció el Presidente, y que eran indirectas contra Moreno Rojas, los bogotanos optaron por las propuestas del candidato del PDA y dijeron no a la reelección de Enrique Peñalosa Londoño.

Así las cosas, los ciudadanos capitalinos decidieron elegir a quien prometió la construcción del metro, a aquel que se comprometió con una amnistía para los infractores de tránsito y aseguró que no construirá peajes urbanos ni cobrará más impuestos.

[...]

Sin embargo, en estas elecciones pierde el PDA, que en la última semana de desesperación llegó a reconocer que las palabras del Presidente, en las que no mencionó ni un solo nombre, le caían como guante a su candidato a la alcaldía de Bogotá.

Uribe fue claro y reiterativo: el candidato al que apoyan las FARC en sus páginas de Internet, el que no rechaza a los terroristas, el que gaguea al momento de rechazar la compra de votos… para todos era claro que blanco es y gallina lo pone, pero el PDA, especialmente su presidente Carlos Gaviria Díaz, salió a la palestra a descalificar a Uribe y a señalarlo de participar en política.

Samuel Moreno Rojas won… by a huge difference, with a historic turnout of more than 900,000 votes. The victory of the [Alternative Democratic Pole, PDA] candidate to the Bogotá mayorship shows, first, that Álvaro Uribe Vélez can't endorse votes.
Despite the presidential speeches, which were hints against Moreno Rojas, Bogotans chose the PDA candidate's proposals and said “no” to the re-election of Enrique Peñalosa Londoño.
Things being so, the citizens of the capital decided to choose the one who promised the subway/train, the one who committed with amnesty to the traffic offenders and he assured he wouldn't create urban toll gates nor charge more taxes.
[...]
Nevertheless, in this election the PDA loses, which in the last desperate week they recognized that the words of the President, even if he didn't mention a single name, fit like a glove for their candidate to the Bogotá mayorship.
Uribe was clear and persistent: the candidate supported by the FARC on their internet websites, the one who fails in rejecting terrorists, the one who hesitates when it comes to refuse to buy votes… it was clear and obvious for everyone who he was, but the PDA, specially his president Carlos Gaviria Díaz, entered the fray to discredit Uribe and accused him of participation in politics.

Meanwhile, Marsares, based on the results for Mayorships and Governorships, remarks in equinoXio [ES] about the “frustrated” (Álvaro Uribe, the Party of the U [ruling], the Conservative Party [ruling], guerrillas), the “stagnant” (Radical Change [ruling], Alas Team Colombia [ruling], Alternative Democratic Pole [opposition], Liberal Party [opposition]) and the “winners” (the independents, sports narrator William Vinasco [third place in Bogotá election], some regional local bosses, the National Registrar of the Civil State) of the elections. At the end of his post, he claims:

Repartido el poder regional se demuestra que el uribismo es Uribe. Sin él, la lucha queda abierta y cualquier cosa puede pasar, incluyendo su segunda reelección.

The regional shared power can be proven that [so-called] ‘uribism’ is [just] Uribe. Without him, the [political] struggle remains open and anything can happen, including his second re-election.

But Juglar del Zipa [ES] thinks Uribe actually “won”:

Antes, como he dicho hace un rato y hace unos años, Uribe —o los uribistas, que no sé si es lo mismo, pero supongo, ya verán, que no es así— puede beneficiarse del hecho de que la alcaldía de Bogotá esté en manos de la supuesta oposición porque así muestra, demuestra y convence a una cantidad de gente de que aquí en Colombia sí hay garantías para, como dice él, «practicar la democracia».

Before, as I've said a while ago and a few years ago, Uribe —or the ‘uribistas', which I don't know if they're the same thing, but I guess, you'll see, that it isn't so— can benefit from the fact that Bogotá mayorship fell in the hands of the supposed opposition because it shows, proves and convinces a lot of people that here in Colombia, there are indeed guarantees to, as he says, «practice democracy».

PDA-opponent Alejandro Peláez writes on Machete [ES] on Bogotá's local administrative juntas (JAL), a even more local legislative entity, equivalent to the city council but in every of the city's 20 localities:

Según los resultados electorales, el Polo Democrático Alternativo obtuvo el mayor número de curules para edil en Bogotá. Sin embargo, nadie ha manifestado que quien realmente ganó en las elecciones para las JAL no fue el Polo sino el voto en blanco.

[...]

Este fenómeno puede tener varias interpretaciones:

  • El electorado no ve que las JAL cumplan un papel relevante y prefiere abstenerse de definir un candidato.
  • Al elector le da pereza investigar los candidatos que se presentan y opta por el voto en blanco.

Una conclusión importante: el poder del voto en blanco es prácticamente nulo.

According to the electoral results, the Alternative Democratic Pole got the most seats for [JAL] local council members in Bogotá. Nevertheless, no one has said that the one who really won the JAL elections wasn't the Pole but the blank vote.
[...]
This can be interpreted in several ways:

  • The electorate doesn't see that the JALs have a relevant role and prefers to abstain from choosing a candidate.
  • The elector is lazy at researching the candidates and opts for the blank vote.

An important conclusion: the blank vote's power is practically non-existent.

El Oyerista [ES] writes about the radio coverage on the elections, claiming that while pro-Uribe RCN Radio was more “quick” and clear when giving the results, Caracol Radio did better on analyzing them. Álvaro Montes also praises [ES] Caracol Radio and Caracol Televisión (which aren't related companies since 2001, though they used to) coverage for putting left-leaning analysts. He also refers to the results in Bogotá:

Pero por lo que más me alegra es porque significó un ladrillazo en la cabeza para Uribe y el uribismo, que hicieron cuanto les fue posible para impedir un segundo periodo del Polo Democrático en la alcaldía de Bogotá y tenían sus esperanzas puestas en Enrique Peñalosa. Uribe intervino en política la semana previa a las elecciones, dijo que Samuel era el candidato de las “Far” y otras tonterías. El presidente que ha ganado dos veces gracias a la compra de votos y al constreñimiento de los electores a punta de fusil paramilitar, acusó a Samuel Moreno de “comprador de votos”. ¡Vaya!

But what makes me glad the most is that [the results] meant a brick to the head ofUribe and the ‘uribism', which did everything possible to prevent a second term for the Democratic Pole in Bogotá mayorship and they hoped Enrique Peñalosa would win. Uribe intervened in politics during the week before the polls, claimed that Samuel was the “Far[c]” candidate and other nonsense. The president who has won twice thanks to “buying votes” and by pressuring electors with the paramilitary rifle, accused Samuel Moreno of “vote buying”. Boy!

Finally, Tienen huevo [ES] mocks the “security” after the elections, by showing the pictures of the riots in some localities where losers didn't accept the defeats of their candidates.

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