Colombia’s Congress on Wednesday approved the political inclusion of former guerrilla group FARC, whose members will have guaranteed seats for two electoral terms.
The Senate vote allows the FARC to form a political party that will be guaranteed five of 102 seats in the senate and another five of 166 in the House of Representatives between 2018 and 2026.
The FARC could obtain more seats in both the 2018 and 2022 elections, but only if their party obtains the votes that would merit increased representation.
In spite of the importance of Wednesday’s vote, only 52 senators showed up at the session, barely enough for the bill to be approved.
“This decision is fundamental. The legislative bill completes the package of initiatives with which we provide the guarantees for the compliance of the agreements of a stable peace in our country.
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo
The vote was boycotted by hard-right opposition party Democratic Center, which opposes the peace process.
According to the approved bill, the FARC’s party may not be formed until after the United Nations has certified the former guerrilla group’s full disarmament.
FARC members accused or convicted of war crimes will be able to join the party, but only after they have paid their dues to justice and their victims.
FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, better known as “Timochenko,” had said his group was not interested in taking part in the 2018 presidential elections, but would endorse a “peace candidate” proposed by other parties.
The FARC’s exchange of bullets for ballots is one of the key elements of the peace deal signed with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos on November 24 last year.
The peace deal marked the end of a 52-year multi-party war that cost the lives of more than 265,000 Colombians and left more than 10% of the population displaced.
Its implementation, however, has been marred by delays and an apparent uptick in political violence caused by a power vacuum that was created when the FARC abandoned their coca and gold-rich territories without state forces moving in adequately.