The majority of Colombia’s voters want nothing to do with “the left” or “the right” and could make political history in the 2022 elections.
Colombia’s so-called political “center” almost succeeded in 2018 when former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo only just failed to reach the second round of the election that was won by President Ivan Duque.
Colombia’s political bias
Source: Los Andes University
Progressives finish what comptroller general started
Fajardo’s chance to become president in 2022 became smaller last week after Comptroller General Felipe Cordoba charged Medellin’s former mayor with negligence.
Colombia’s so-called “left” launched a barrage of criticism on the “extreme centrist” with whom they had a score to settle.
Fajardo’s endorsement of a blank vote in the 2018 second round secured Duque’s victory, according to opposition Senator Gustavo Petro, who lost to Duque.
The president would also have won also if the progressive candidate had received all blank votes, but the “leftist” Petro almost took a bullet while campaigning against the same corruption as the “half-hearted” Fajardo.
2018 election result
Source: National Registrar
Fajardo’s Mount Nebo
Fajardo’s aspirations to defeat both “the left” and “the right” in 2022 were already slim before the comptroller general and his political rival got involved.
This may hurt the politician’s formidable ego, but Colombia’s voters may not need Medellin’s former mayor, a lot like the Israelites didn’t need Moses to enter Palestine.
Moses’ successor Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land while the man who had led the Jewish people through the desert for 40 years died on Mount Nebo, according to the bible.
Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
The prophet wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land because he allegedly had banged a rock to give his people water instead of waiting for divine intervention.
Fajardo, who avoids “polarization” at any cost, went to the beach when police were cracking down on Colombia’s biggest anti-government protests in four decades last year.
Since then, former Vice-President and peace advocate Humberto de la Calle has taken the lead among the moderates in the latest Gallup poll.
Fajardo began promoting his “centrist” agenda when running for mayor of Medellin in 2002.
Twenty years later, Fajardo may want to put his weight behind a candidate like De la Calle whose peace advocacy has gained the senior politician growing support while Fajardo’s refusal to take a stand appears to begin to work against him.
Leading Colombia’s center
The pain on the left and the right
Moses’ fate did not make the Israelites enter a land different than the one that was promised. Some may have proposed going to Crete, but all ended up in Palestine.
Whatever Fajardo does should also not matter. His almost 20-year-old strategy to seek the middle is working, and could be working even better without the former Medellin mayor.
Duque and his “Uribistas” have lost such significant support over the past three years that the president’s Democratic Center party is heading towards becoming a fringe minority.
Petro’s approval rating did go up, but the progressive can still count on significant disapproval, not just from “the right,” but from all over the political spectrum.
The spill-over of the “Uribista” implosion is primarily benefiting the politicians around Fajardo who are promoting moderation and pragmatism.
This strategy could make Colombia’s moderates, who make up the country’s largest electoral constituency, the decisive factor in the elections instead of prey for “the left” and “the right.”
Disapproval of Colombia’s left and right
Ending a duopolistic political history
The introduction of a decisive third force would be almost revolutionary. Colombia’s political system has historically been a duopoly similar to the United States, only more violent.
Colombia’s traditional powerhouses, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, have gone to war over this binary division and the social-democratic Patriotic Union was literally exterminated after it sought to take part in elections after 1985.
The 1991 constitution allowed the peaceful participation of other political parties, but candidates in presidential elections more often than not sought victory by dividing the electoral base in the middle rather than empowering it.
The first to break with this divisive strategy was former President Juan Manuel Santos in 2014 after successfully seeking the support of both conservatives and progressives for a peace process with now-demobilized FARC guerrillas.
Fajardo could go into history as the politician who ended binary politics by making a moderate force the decisive factor in politics.