Narconews: Weak Mandate for Uribe in Colombia
Weak Mandate for Uribe in Colombia as Most Citizens Skip Vote
May 30, 2006
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Over the last four years, correspondents reporting home to the U.S. and elsewhere from Bogotá have done little but gush about astounding popularity of Colombia's president among the people. For the first time, goes the myth, Colombians see their president working day and night, working tirelessly to make their lives better. Typical is this piece from the Boston Globe published on the eve of the election:
"Intense and hard-driving, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe doesn't hesitate to call aides on their cellphones before dawn when a brainstorm hits him or on Sundays when he needs help answering a question at one of his town hall meetings. His passionate, hands-on approach to leadership has helped him drastically improve security and jumpstart economic growth in this war-ravaged nation-and has made him the frontrunner to win reelection tomorrow… But Uribe, the most popular Colombian president in memory, will face daunting expectations in a second four-year term... Popular sentiment is certainly with the 53-year-old president. At his final campaign rally in the capital last Friday, the main plaza was awash with banners and supporters urging, 'Keep going, President!'"
After his easy victory on Sunday, Colombia braces for four more years under Alvaro Uribe this week, the president who has made Colombia an island of subservience to the U.S. while the rest of South America inches slowly toward more sovereign, more popular, and more democratic alternatives. Uribe stays on as the president with one of the smallest real popular mandates in the region. The figure that really led the polls in the 2006 elections, the figure that did not make any headlines in the commercial media but continues to dominate the political scene, is disillusionment with the system.
The Left - once a near non-entity in Colombian politics - showed that it is becoming a major force, finally overshadowing the long-dominant Colombian Liberal Party. This was not a fluke, but the result of years of hard work unifying the various factions on the left and slowly winning back the trust that decades of war and repression had worn away. In 2002, Luis Eduardo Garzón ran as the candidate for a new leftwing coalition called the Independent Democratic Pole (PDI), receiving just six percent of the vote. The next year, however, he won in his campaign for mayor of Bogotá, and PDI mayoral candidates took several other important cities. These were the first real electoral results for the left since the Patriotic Union party was massacred - most major candidates and thousands of party activists assassinated - from the mid-1980s to early 90s. In this year's March congressional elections, "radical" PDI congressman and former M19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro, considered the most popular representative in the lower house, ran for Senate and received the second-highest number of votes of any senator. Now, drug policy reformer Carlos Gaviria has received a truly unprecedented 2.6 million votes, or 22 percent, as the reorganized Alternative Democratic Pole's (PDA's) candidate for the presidency.
Meanwhile, despite supposedly unprecedented enthusiasm for the president and his reelection, relatively few actually cast votes for Uribe. According to the latest figures from Colombia's electoral authorities, turnout was a dismal 43 percent of eligible voters.
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