Full Colombian Congressional Election Results: Uribe, Democratic Center Gain Steam in Divided Political Landscape
Photo: Before they became rivals, then-President Álvaro Uribe (right) and then-Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos (center) meet with U.S. officials in Washington. (Credit: U.S. Defense Department)
Colombians went to the polls this weekend to elect their new representatives in both houses of Congress, and the results reflected the wide plurality of political views in a country that has grow highly divided over an extended peace process, the scourge of corruption, economic stagnation, and how to solve a host of commonplace issues from healthcare and education to security and environmental concerns.
While the coalitions on the right and left both saw movement in terms of representation, the final totals show five parties relatively lumped together, with none grasping the type of numerical seat advantage that will allow it to exert dominance.
The Democratic Center (Centro Democrático) party of former president Álvaro Uribe, however, fared the best in terms of gaining seats while the Party of the U (Partido de la U) of President Juan Manuel Santos lost a lot of ground.
Nevertheless, the leading parties will all still need to continue building coalitions to push their agendas in the next legislative session in what has become the fragmented political landscape in Colombia today.
“We ended up with a very balanced Senate,” stated Medellín-based Bancolombia today in a note to investors. “Whoever wins the presidential election is going to have to work with a broad church and radical changes are unlikely.”
One factor highlighting this dynamic are the gains made yesterday by the Green Alliance (Alianza Verde). Compared to the 2014 congressional election, the smaller, left-wing party nearly doubled its number of seats across the two houses to put it on the map as a more-serious force.
Analysts at the London-based Capital Economics saw the results similarly to those at Bancolombia. “A highly fragmented Congress will lean against a big shift in policy in either direction,” stated the research group in its investors’ note.
In the Senate, the Democratic Center ended up on top with 19 seats, followed by Radical Change (Cambio Radical) with 16, and the Conservative party (Conservador Colombiano) with 15 seats. The Liberal party (Liberal Colombiano) and Party of the U (Partido de la U) were closely behind with 14 seats each.
Among the individual Senate candidates, Uribe received by far the highest volume of national support. The only candidate to come anywhere near the right-wing ex-president’s 875,554 vote tally was two-time former Bogotá mayor Aurelijus Mockus with 540,783, whose large base further showed the rise of the Green Alliance.
Orge Enrique Robledo of the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democrático Alternativo) also garnered heavy support, with 226,099 votes, while 10 other candidates finished with more than 100,000 votes.
Results in the territorial-based lower house were similarly stratified, although the top three parties managed to carve out a more substantial advantage in terms of seats won. The Liberal party, with more than 16.6% of the national vote, earned 35 seats followed closely by the Democratic Center with 32 and Radical Change with 30 seats.
The Party of the U, of sitting, and soon to be outgoing, President Santos, fared better in the lower house than the Senate. Its 25 seats put it fourth and ahead of the 21 seats won by the Conservative party, but this still represents a significant drop-off from its power-wielding position throughout the second term of Santos.
The Green Alliance, garnering almost 6% of the national tally, ranked much further behind in the Chamber. Its roughly 884,000 votes were less than half of the top five parties, leaving it with 9 seats.
While much was made about the first-ever electoral participation of the party that emerged from the demobilized FARC guerrilla group, voters gave the former rebels almost no support at the ballot box. The party comprised of ex-guerrilla candidates from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has retained the FARC acronym, got less than 0.4% of the national vote in both the Senate and the Chamber. (Regardless of the results, under the peace accord, the FARC party is set to receive five seats in each house of Congress.)
“The FARC, despite all the fears when the peace agreement was signed, mustered a miserly 52,000 votes,” stated Bancolombia,” adding that “they do get give seats as part of the agreement but they are non-voting seats.”
In addition to the congressional election, the primaries to decide the candidates for Colombia’s conservative and liberal factions were also held on Sunday. Iván Duque, on the right, and leftist candidate Gustavo Petro were the runaway winners for each side and will represent their respective coalitions in the May 27 presidential election. They are expected to remain the frontrunners in the race.
While other political wrangling and coalition building could continue to alter the makeup of the rest of the field, other likely presidential candidates include former Medellín mayor Sergio Fajardo, former vice president Germán Lleras Vargas, and lead governmental peace process negotiator Humberto de la Calle.
“The same four candidates are still expected to dominate the polls — Duque, Petro, Lleras, Fajardo — and it is still a close call at this point and the second round is still fully expected to be a left vs. right run off,” stated Bancolombia. “The only factor being discussed during the analysis of last night’s results would be a potential first round victory if either side could create a grand alliance ahead of the vote but that would require certain candidates to withdraw from the election and pledge their support.”