Constitutional Court President Mauricio Gonzalez announced Friday that the court voted 7 to 2 against the referendum to allow Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to run for a third term and called the document “unconstitutional in its entirety”.
Gonzalez said that the court found law 1354, 2009, created by the government in order to call the referendum, to be unconstitutional. Thus they found the whole referendum, by default, to be unconstitutional.
The constitutional court’s decision did not only block a president from running for a third term, it also blocks a former president from campaigning again to regain the president’s office.
Gonzalez said that the court was fundamentally concerned with precedents the referendum might set, adding that at stake was a question of “reforming, not substituting” the constitution. The way that the referendum was conducted did not just possess irregularities, he said, but serious violations.
Gonzalez cited also cited errors within the processing of the referendum itself.
The first was that the financing of the referendum. Gonzalez said that funding received to finance the referendum was 30 times over the legal financial cap permitted.
The second pertains to the text of the referendum. Following the re-collection of signatures, the Senate changed the text of the referendum, disregarding a previous vote in the House to disallow a change in formulation. Gonzalez said the court ruled this to be unconstitutional.
These finding support the recommendations of Magistrate Humberto Sierra, who was appointed by the court to examine the referendum’s constitutionality.
Gonzalez stressed that none of the magistrates felt political pressure as a result of the referendum’s rejection.
Following the court’s ruling, Uribe’s coalition will have to seek a different candidate for the presidential elections on May 7.
They announced Thursday that they will register former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos as their presidential candidate
Uribe sought to run for a third term in office, which is prohibited by the constitution. The Constitutional Court studied the referendum bill which proposed allowing Uribe to stand for his second re-election, to determine if the document were constitutional.
Guillermo Mejia, a former electoral magistrate who studied the constitutionality of the 2006 referendum which allowed Uribe to run for his second term, told Colombia Reports that the referendum essentially failed to pass because it fundamentally went against the procedures laid out in the 1991 Constitution.
“There are three ways that the Constitution can be reformed,” he said. “The first is through Congress. The second is through a referendum, and the third is through a constituent’s assembly. And what the Constitution of 1991 also establishes is that when committing to a referendum, only a certain amount of money can be spent in collecting the signatures. And basically what’s going on is that the promoters of the referendum violated all these laws.”
“The defenders of the referendum are saying, the people are behind this,” Mejia added. “Well, of course they are. But then those who say they are defenders of the people are in fact violating what the people said in 1991.”