As Colombia’s lawmakers go on Christmas recess, President Ivan Duque can look back on an “absolutely disastrous” beginning of his government, according to newspaper El Espectador.
The president’s approval rating has plummeted and his administration has been unable to push any of its reform proposals, including anti-corruption measures agreed with the opposition, through Congress.
No more than two bills proposed by the government became law since the president took office on August 7, the newspaper reported after talking to more than a dozen congressmen and former ministers.
A failure foretold
When Duque took office, he formed a cabinet of technocrats and leaders who were loyal to his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe.
Duque had no relevant executive experience before becoming president and only two of his ministers had experience in politics before jumping on the “uribista” bandwagon to power.
But what may have been Duque’s biggest mistake was the president’s failure to share power and form a solid majority coalition in Congress.
Furthermore, the government is failing to even communicate with members of Congress and is confusing political concessions with politicking, one senior official of the center-right U Party told El Espectador.
I don’t think there has been a government that in the first year has demonstrated so much legislative inefficiency, which is explained by the fact that there is no dialogue with the congressmen. They don’t meet them, they don’t answer their phones and they have confused political representation with toxic slush funds.
Senior U Party official
As a result of Duque’s failure to share power and the government’s failure to negotiate initiatives, no congressman “feels committed to his initiatives.” the U Party official said.
Some of the president’s policy proposals have even been opposed by the radical wing of his Democratic Center party that opposes political concessions and complains Duque is betraying those who got him into power.
An urgent change in the government is needed. He has to start governing and stop trying to satisfy his opponents, because they will never be happy with what President Duque does… That’s no way of governing. He has to do it with his party and with the theses that led him to the presidency. In the Democratic Center many of us feel that we have no representation in the government and [Duque] is losing the support of those of us who brought him to power.
Democratic Center lawmaker
Can Duque turn the tide?
Duque appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place and will either have to risk a split with his own party by finding a majority in Congress or abandon all consensus politics and rule by decree.
Newspaper El Tiempo reported last week that the president tends towards moving to the middle.
Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, one of the two ministers with experience in politics, admitted the government’s need for “a truly broad coalition” in Congress at a forum organized by the newspaper.