The backlash to President Juan Manuel Santos‘ proposal to only run for a two year term in the 2014 elections on Monday prompted a swift retraction in a letter addressed to Colombia’s Congress.
The proposal would have extended the mandates for mayors and governors to six years while eliminating the possibility of re-election. The reform was put forward last week by Senator Juan Manuel Corzo of the Conservative party, declaring that it has become “very difficult” for public figures to see reforms through in a first term of only four years.
President Santos initially declared in Cartagena on Friday that he was in favour of the proposal, and that if he were to be re-elected he would stay for a period of two years in order to synchronize the presidential, mayoral and governmental mandates.
“If I do present my candidature for re-election [in 2014], it will be for a two year period,” he said.
However the Colombian president today moved to clarify this declaration after a strong reaction to what many saw as a potential automatic extension of Santos’s mandate.
In the letter, Santos emphasizes that he had said that were he to undertake a six year mandate, it would have been a shortening of his second term, as opposed to an extension of his current period in office.
“I thought – wrongly, it seems – that a proposal of this nature would be well received by all, including the opposition, because it would not imply an automatic extension of my mandate…but many did not understand it that way,” he said in a letter to Congress today.
The proposal had provoked a strong reaction from the opposition. The former president of the Constitutional Court, Carlos Gaviria, described the idea as “harebrained,” explaining that to extend the president’s term would require an amendment of Colombia’s Constitution, and that to give Santos two more years would amount to ignoring the voice of the electorate.
Senate President Roy Barreras today announced on Twitter that the proposal would not be considered before the 2014 elections, a decision which Santos has now made clear he agrees with.
In a series of tweets, Barreras explained that the proposal to eliminate re-election and extend the presidential mandate to six years will be discussed by the next government, and Congress. The U party Senator added that the extension of mayoral periods in office will be one of the first points of discussion after the 2014 elections.
The idea of extending the presidential term had stemmed from the support of former Senator Piedad Cordoba, who on April 3 declared that the terms for both Santos and Colombia’s Congress should be extended in order to allow continuity in the peace talks with left wing rebel group FARC.
According to Cordoba, Santos’s government is “working against the clock” to thoroughly develop the peace talks, including the full participation of civil society, and therefore declared herself in favour of extending the presidential term.
The Colombian president however moved to deny these claims in his letter to Congress. “I want to take advantage of this opportunity to clarify that this discussion has NOTHING to do with the peace process. I remain convinced, now more than ever that in order to be successful this process needs to last months, not years,” stated Santos in the letter.
- Prolongar el periodo presidencial “sería inexequible”: Constitucionalistas (Caracol)
- Colombia’s Santos changes mind on two-year re-election bid (Reuters)
- Carta del Presidente Juan Manuel Santos al senador Roy Barreras (Presidencia de la Republica)
- Reelección de Juan Manuel Santos sería por dos años (El Nuevo Siglo)
- Murió propuesta de reelección de Santos por 2 años; no va por ahora (Santa Fe)
- Piedad Córdoba propone ampliar presidencia de Santos (El Tiempo)
- Proyecto de ley ampliaría periodo presidencial en Colombia (LAFM)