The ruling coalition of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took an electoral beating on Sunday night, maintaining a slim majority, but taking losses to the Conservatives and the party of former President Alvaro Uribe.
This presents a problematic outlook for the head of state and his supporting parties, who have until now enjoyed a sizable majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Those parties that support Santos for his election are his own U Party (Partido de La U), the Liberal Party and the Radical Change (Cambio Radical) party.
With 83% of the ballots counted, his coalition succeeded to reach a projected majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but one dramatically reduced from the dominant grip it previously enjoyed.
The main winner from the coalition’s losses has been former president Alvaro Uribe, whose Democratic Center (Centro Democratico) party looks set to gain a minority but still significant bloc in both the House and Senate.
Santos’ coalition, consisting of the U Party, Liberal Party, Radical Change and members of the Conservative Party, reached approximately 46% of the votes. After removing the votes cast for parties that failed to reach the electoral threshold, the Coalition of National Unity might be able to reach a majority, but at the time of printing this was too close a call to say. Much will turn on the decision of Conservative Party legislators, many of whom have previously sided with Santos, but who seem to align more closely with the present policies of Uribe, and the results of presidential elections, in which Santos’ primary opponent is the Democratic Center candidate.
In the House of Representatives, Santos’ coalition parties received approximately 49%, after almost 83% of the votes were counted.
If the government is unable to receive the support needed to push new policies over the next four years unless they form new coalitions with smaller parties or with Uribe’s Democratic Center party, which is currently leading with Senate by more than 2% with almost 16% of votes.
Currently, these make up 71.5% of the Senate and 61% of the House, allowing the Santos to push policy through Congress with relative ease.
However, this year is already seeing former president Alvaro Uribe do impressively well with his new Democratic Center party, which is already leading the Senate vote.
If this trend does not change in the next few hours, Santos’ possible second-term presidency will need to take action to maintain control of the legislature – which is particularly important in the prospect of a successful peace agreement with Colombia’s oldest living rebel group, the FARC.
The most effective option would be to forge a coalition with long-time rival Uribe and get an instant majority.
With the Democratic Pole currently enjoying 16.01% of votes in Senate and 11.16% in House, the extended coalition would mean a 60.8% and 57.96% majority respectively.
Although Santos and Uribe formerly belonged to the same party, their differences have caused the two politicians to split, with Uribe now one of Santos’ most severe critics. These same differences could lead to deep divisions within the 2014 to 2018 legislative.
This is especially true when considering that the Conservative Party – the second largest in Santos’ coalition – has traditionally been supportive of Uribe and this year shunned the head of state’s re-election campaign, choosing instead to endorse presidential candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez.
Santos’ other option would be to forge ties with smaller left-wing parties such as the Green Party (Alianza Verde-AV), the Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico-PD) or the recently reformed Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica-UP).
However, of the parties looking like they will win seats in Congress, it currently looks like Santos would need to coalesce with more than one party to get over half of the legislative on his side.
The Green Party is the first party behind Santos coalition parties and Uribe’s Democratic Center with 4.35%. Even with their support, the coalition would fill only 49.14% of Senate at the current count.
Following the Green Party in Senate are the Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico Alternativo – PDA) with 4.33% of votes, the Citizen’s Choice Party (Partido Opcion Ciudadana) with 3.47% and MIRA with 2.57%.
If all these parties were to merge with Santos’ current coalition, they would make up 59.51% of Congress versus the 60.8% that would be achieved solely with Uribe’s Democratic Center.
In House, the count so far shows that the Green Party — which once again leads the minority parties – is at 3.8%, the Alternative Democratic Pole are at 3.38%, the MIRA are at 3.18% and the Bor Un Huila Mejor are at 0.66%.
Even if these all joined the pro-Santos coalition, they would represent just 57.82% of Congress versus 57.96% if Santos were to merge with Uribe’s party alone.
- Congressional Results 2014 (Electoral Registry)