The past week has been filled with news regarding the possibility of President Uribe running for another term, whether in 2010 or 2014. It is time that Uribe informs Colombians of his interest or lack thereof on either option, but it is also time that the supporters of these initiatives realize that Colombian democracy is in much need of oxygen, and that a new reelection would seriously hinder the future of the nation’s democracy.
During the Uribe years, all three branches of government have suffered worrisome transformations. The judicial branch went through a substantial crisis this year, while the legislative branch has lost any remaining legitimacy with the astounding number of elected officials imprisoned for connections with illegal groups. The executive branch has also taken an unfortunate turn, with the nearly absolute connection between the branch and the President’s persona, making its standing directly dependent on Uribe’s. In that sense, Colombian democracy requires a new era of strengthening and legitimatizing of democratic institutions. Such a process can only occur within the context of a new administration.
Also, while Uribe’s popularity is remarkable, specially considering he is in his second term, the almost messianic status to which he has been elevated by many is not healthy for democracy. The hopes and dreams of a nation cannot rest solely on a single individual, but should rather be put upon the democratic system that the individual is elected to lead. More so, political systems require a renewal of leadership, that will allow up and coming personalities to rise and bring new ideas and policies to advance national interest.
Furthermore, in a developing democracy, particularly a Latin American one, the idea that while a president is in office his supporters can change the constitution as many times as they please to extend the ability of that individual to stay in office is troublesome. The perpetuation in power of a single figure, as it has happened in Cuba, and Venezuela, for instance, will raise doubts internationally about the legitimacy of the Colombian democracy.
Additionally, undoubtedly the presidency takes a toll on the individual filling the post. The fatigue and the effects of his long tenure are evident not only on President Uribe, but also on his family. The first lady reportedly opposed the idea of a first reelection four years ago, and the President’s sons had to recently go through a media tour after reports tried to tie them to the money pyramid scandal. These effects on the first family are multiple and substantial, and a sound democratic system allows for that weight to shift from family to family as the presidency is passed on.
The idea of a single reelection was not outrageous as it allowed for Colombia to match the possibilities that are offered by other international democracies. It is important that the Colombian electorate can decide to keep a President in office for more than a single term as four years is too little time to institute long-term transformational policies. Yet, the idea of multiple continuous reelections seems to open the door for a future leader to easily perpetuate his or her stay in the presidency through questionable means.
If President Uribe wants to continue to truly support the agenda that his has adamantly pushed during his administration, he ought to step aside and support a candidate that is ideologically and politically aligned with him. The renewal of leadership is necessary to allow Colombian democracy to flourish into a future of legitimacy.
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York