Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is organizing potential candidates to challenge President Juan Manuel Santos‘ power in the legislature ahead of elections in 2014, news network Noticias Uno reported Sunday.
Although Uribe and Santos are both members of the Social Party of National Unity (U Party), rumors have started to circulate that Uribe will create a new party to challenge the sitting president, putting the future of the U Party into question.
U Party Senator Armando Benedetti warned the party may be on the brink of collapse. “U politicians seem like divorced parents. [Members] are not to blame for anything, the people who created the party [have] distanced themselves from us,” Benedetti told newspaper El Colombiano.
Others are not as pessimistic as Benedetti, but most acknowledge that the Santos-Uribe rivalry has put substantial pressure on the party.
“We’re not in crisis, but we are going through a stressful time on which rests the future of the party, and what decisions will be made depends on Uribe’s stance in the elections,” U Party Senator Mauricio Lizcano told El Colombiano.
Although Uribe has not confirmed he will create a new party, his recent meetings with high ranking officials have caused serious speculation in Bogota. The former president met with Senator and U Party president Juan Lozano, the president of Colombia’s cattle association Fedegan Jose Felix Lafaurie, and Uribe’s former Minister of Social Protection Diego Palacio Betancur over the weekend.
Uribe remains very popular both among the electorate and politicians with a recent poll showing 53% of Colombians consider him the best president since 1986, although many of his closest supporters still do not support the splintering of the party.
“Defending the work of President Uribe cannot mean betting on the failure of President Santos. What we are going to keep trying is to restore communication between them, or at least that these differences of opinion can be adjudicated in the party, which is the party of both,” said U Party Senator and former Uribe ally Roy Barreras.
Although Santos was Uribe’s chosen successor, rifts developed between them shortly after Santos took office and the two have not spoken in person for many months.
“The only communication they have is through social networks,” said U Party Senator Juan Carlos Velez, referring to the public debates the two presidents have on the social networking platform Twitter.
There are no concrete numbers on how many party members would abandon the U Party if Uribe creates his own, but 82 U Party senators would have to decide where their loyalties lie and this could drastically alter the course of the upcoming 2014 legislative and presidential elections.