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September 9, 2008
Legislation could alter Colombia’s constitution

Steven L. Taylor, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Political Science at Troy University in Alabama who discusses Colombian politics in his blog. Via El Tiempo: Proyecto de referendo por la reelección de Uribe será presentado mañana en el Congreso.

Proposal for amendment to allow Uribe term hits Congress this week

The legislation in question would, if passed, lead to a referendum on whether or not the constitution would be amended to allow sitting President Álvaro Uribe to stand for a third term at the polls. I have not read the text of the legislation, but assume it removes the current two-term limit and makes it a three-term limit, although I am not certain of that at this point. For those unfamiliar with Colombian politics, it should be noted that Uribe came to office in 2002 under a one term-limit, but the constitution was amended during his first four-year term to a two-term limit. Uribe handily won re-election in 2006 and currently is slated to leave office in 2010.

One of the more interesting aspects of this situation (to me, anyway, as a student of Colombian parties) is that while Uribe has majority support in the Congress, it is based on a coalition of parties, and the drive for a third term has been driven by only one, the Party of National Social Unity, known colloquially as the “Partido de la U” (for the “Unity” part, but the fact that Uribe’s last name start with a “u” is no coincidence).

One of the partners in the pro-Uribe bloc is the Conservative Party (PC), which, as I noted a while back, has appeared somewhat tepid towards the re-election bid. Indeed, ET notes in the piece:

Pero una de las mayores incógnitas de este proceso legislativo la constituye el camino que tomará el Partido Conservador en torno a la segunda reelección del presidente Uribe.

Basic translation:

One of the major unknowns in this process is the road that will be taken by the Conservative Party in regards to a second re-election of President Uribe.

The PC, and the other parties in the coalition, have to weigh the short-term benefit of remaining in a pro-Uribe coalition after 2010 to the possibility of offering their own candidates for the highest office in the land themselves. Do they forgo their own party-building to continue to support Uribe? What about all the other high ambition politicians that support the coalition now, but were doing so to bid their time until Uribe’s time ran out?

There, too, is the question of whether a third term would be healthy for Colombian democracy, an issue that will not be lost on many politicians as well as many in the public. As such, this is no minor issue.

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