A peace deal between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels could be approved by November following Monday’s decision by the constitutional court to give the green light for allowing the public to vote yes or no on the deal.
The landmark approval for the plebiscite allows President Juan Manuel Santos a maximum time of four months to put the deal in front of the electorate, through which he will need 13% or 4.5 million votes in favor to have it co-signed by the Colombian people.
Santos praised the decision allowing the people to have the last word saying that “peace is a purpose and a national goal, of all Colombians without exception,” adding that “it is the most important decision that each of us will have to take in our lives.”
The decision to allow a 13% threshold will give the President every opportunity of pushing the deal through despite the bitter political opposition that he faces.
Some 33 million of Colombia’s almost 49 million population are eligible to vote, with opinion polls suggesting that the low threshold will ensure that Santos will not face a British style “Brexit” calamity.
Opposition of Santos and the peace deal have slammed the decision claiming that a simple one question, yes or no vote will not allow Colombians to reject specific aspects of the peace agreement.
Former president and now opposition Senator Alvaro Uribe who had advocated a “no” vote has recently been promoting abstention in the hope that a low turnout could halt the execution of a peace accord with the leftist rebels.
The coming months will see both sides launch their respective campaigns to sway public opinion either way with the Constitutional Court laying down specific guidelines as to how preparations for the vote should be conducted.
The court clearly specified that during their campaigns “they cannot include contents that promote a party, political movement or significant group of citizens or anything relating to the promotion of candidates for elected office.”
In addition there must be absolute transparency regarding the material that is disclosed to the public.
“The publication of the final agreement will be held simultaneously with the report the President to Congress about its intention to call a plebiscite, so that the Congress and the people to meet timely the contents of that agreement,” said the ruling.
The ruling also stated that this factual, transparent information must be made accessible to all groups in society including those with disabilities and those who don’t speak Spanish as their first language.
Considering the low threshold, the odds are indeed stacked in favor of Santos being empowered to sign the final agreement for cessation of hostilities.
A victory of the “Yes” would not immediately integrate the agreement into the constitution with ratification by Congress required.
Even if the public vote “no,” while it would be a major setback for the President excluding him from proceeding with the agreement, Congress itself could still pursue another legal strategy to make the agreement a reality.