With President Ivan Duque under almost constant criticism and former President Alvaro Uribe facing trial, Colombia’s local elections couldn’t have come at a worse time for the country’s far-right ruling party.
The October 27 vote is the far-right Democratic Center’s (CD) second local elections in its six-year history. It was still in the process of building its regional power bases.
Over the past four years, its one governor and 154 mayors have successfully avoided the corruption scandals that have marred Colombia’s politics since the beginning of the Republic.
In fact, of its 664 officials elected in 2015, only 38 were sanctioned, making the CD on a local and regional level the least corrupt political party after the Green Alliance (AV) party and indigenous authorities.
Party activists have been working like mules in an attempt to cash in on that achievement and expand the party’s local and regional power, but national politics are in the way.
Duque’s election last year promised favorable conditions, but by November the president saw his approval rating dropping below 30%, and he has hardly been able to improve this.
The common sentiment is that the government is failing and generating high levels of pessimism throughout the country, according to the pollsters.
Colombia’s Supreme Court decision to call Uribe to trial in the middle of the elections campaign made things even worse.
A handful of radicalized members have been threatening with a civil war, which has been used to scare off moderate voters who would be willing to hear the CD’s candidates’ ideas on regional issues.
Uribe’s fraud and bribery case is the perfect propaganda for all local and regional AV candidates, whose consistent campaigning against corruption is only made more relevant.
Despite the regional CD officials’ relatively clean record, the party’s candidates are suffering damage. The moral authority they have acquired in opposition to the traditionally corrupt regional elites has lost all momentum.
The CD activists are going to have to work twice as hard if they want to prevent the chaos in Bogota to kill their local and regional ambitions.
If they fail and are unable to defeat the traditional elites, changes are that the 2022 congressional and presidential elections are going to be a disaster for the party.