Colombian voters head to polls amidst wider regional instability

Colombian voters head to polls amidst wider regional instability

Colombians vote today to elect members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Following a 2016 peace deal, this will

Julian Gallo, known as Carlos Antonio Lozada of the political party FARC, speaks during the closing of their campaign before legislative elections in Fusagasuga

Photo: Reuters/Felipe Caicedo

Colombians vote today to elect members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Following a 2016 peace deal, this will mark the electoral debut of the FARC, former guerrilla rebels.

Ex-President Alvaro Uribe’s right-wing Democratic Centre is capitalising on outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos’s unpopularity—he has a 14% approval rating—and discontent with an economy that slowed to 1.8% growth last year. Polling shows Uribe’s party placing first with about 20%, which could put a party that opposed the deal with the FARC in power at a critical moment in its implementation.

In 2016, the FARC agreed to lay down its arms in return for the right to seek office as a legitimate political party. The ex-guerrillas’ legacy of violence has left them with little support—they are polling at 1%. However, with a guaranteed 5 seats in each chamber, they will have a voice in the next congress.

The better the Democratic Centre does in these elections, the higher the chance Mr Uribe’s party will recapture the presidency in June. That result would empower enemies of the peace deal, threatening the delicate process.

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