Two outspoken supporters of Colombia’s peace process will be presiding over the country’s Congress in the coming year, making it almost impossible for President Ivan Duque to push through his hard-right agenda.
During his first year in office, Duque could count on the support of Ernesto Macias, the former Senate president of the Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party.
Macias had no scruples about using his power to delay the implementation of the peace process but those days are over for at least a year.
Bye bye, Macias
Because the Senate and the House of Congress presidencies rotate, Macias will have to hand over the gavel to Senator Lidio Garcia of the Liberal Party on July 20 when Congress returns from summer recess.
In the House of Representatives, Carlos Cuenca of the center-right Radical Change party took over from Alejandro Chacon (Liberal Party).
The new presidents of the two congressional chambers are members of the center right voting block that has consistently and successfully opposed efforts of Duque’s minority coalition to sink the peace process.
Pulling Duque to the middle
Both Cuenca and Chacon have also fiercely criticized the president’s refusal to share power, which has made Duque’s first year in office the least effective of this century.
Rather than forming a broad coalition, the president has been made sure to keep executive power with a close circle of loyalists of his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe.
The government’s refusal to either share power or make compromises has widely been considered a disaster; not only did the prospects of peace and the international reputation of Colombia suffer major damage, Duque was only able to push six government proposals through congress in his first year.
First year policy proposals
Source: La Silla Vacia
In the meantime, Duque’s approval rating has been stuck around 30% since November last year, setting a record for the quickest loss of public support by a president.
Populism not working
The president has consistently tried to please Colombia’s large socially conservative voting base by promoting national pride and populist policies against drug use while evading controversial topics like gay rights and abortion.
But his loyalty to his far-right party seems to have alienated moderate conservatives while the rising unemployment rate and pessimism about the economy have made him an easy target for the leftist opposition and the center-right.
Influential news magazine “Semana” refers to the president’s first year in office as “The Lost Year,” and unless Duque can turn the tide, he could go down in history as “The Lost President.”