Colombia’s FARC rebels will take part in the 2018 elections as a formal political party, but this is mainly a political warm-up. The guerrillas will receive five guaranteed seats in both the Senate and the House.
According to the peace deal presented to the public Wednesday, to facilitate the groups transition from an illegal armed group to a political party, the FARC will be guaranteed these seats until the 2026 elections.
After that, the former guerrillas will have to obtain votes like any other political party.
Before the 2018 elections, the FARC may in no way be involved in political violence and will have to have comply with electoral regulations that demand it to have a party statute and be formally registered with electoral authorities.
But the FARC’s road to their 2018 political participation is long and all but certain.
First, the FARC will hold their 10th guerrilla conference in which it will dissolve itself as a self-proclaimed armed insurgent group.
On October 2, the Colombian people will vote to either ratify or reject the peace deal. This first hurdle is possibly the biggest as it could end up binning the entire peace deal, forcing the guerrillas back into the jungles and mountains from where they have been fighting since 1964.
This day has been determined Colombia’s “D-Day,” the point zero of the FARC’s 180-day demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process.
While FARC representatives during this period will be working on the preparations of their political participation, the group will not be allowed any political activity or contact with the general public until the United Nations ratifies the group has been fully disarmed.
As a consequence, their registration as a political party will not be allowed until 180 days after D-Day.
This means that the FARC can not become a registered party or movement before April, 2017.
This gives the FARC less than a year to take part in the March 2018 congressional elections.
For the two congressional periods that follow, the FARC will be guaranteed five seats in Colombia’s 102-seat Senate and 166-seat House of Representatives, a representative of respectively 5% and 3%.
Colombia’s current main opposition party on the left, the Polo Democratico, has only three seats in the House and five in the Senate.
If the former guerrillas are able to campaign successfully and obtain more than five seats, these will be granted like with any other political party.
When Colombia takes to the polls in 2026 the FARC will have lost their right to guaranteed seats and will be entirely on its own, and unarmed, to pursue its political agenda and that of its supporters.