Monday, May 29, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Via El Tiempo El presidente Álvaro Uribe y el Polo Democrático Alternativo hirieron de muerte al bipartidismo comes this description of the Serpa campaign HQ after the vote:

El ambiente en el cuartel liberal en el Hotel Cosmos 100 de Bogotá era frío./ The atmosphere of the of Liberal headquarters at the Cosmos 100 Hotel in Bogotá was cold.

I bet it was. This was the worst defeat the PL has ever experienced at the ballot box. Indeed, it is an outcome that would have been considered unthinkable even four years ago. Indeed, as I have noted before, a decade or so ago there were those who thought that the PL would be permanently in the majority.

Of course, all defeats are not equal. At the HQ of the Carlos Gaviria, the second place winner:

las caras eran de felicidad pues a pesar de la derrota/the faces were happy in spite of the defeat

Gaviria’s finish was the best for a left-leaning presidential candidate in the history of Colombia. Only the AD/M-19 list for the National Constituent Assembly in 1990 was a better finish (percentage-wise) for the political left in a national election.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Here is the current photo on the front page of El Tiempo online (Colombia’s major newspaper):

It looks like Uribe is trying a Jedi mind trick on the audience. And you have to love the the guy mopping his brow in the background (Vice President Francisco Santos Calderón, I think). He appears to be about to pass out.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Uribe won thirty of thirty-two of Colombia’s departments (like states, kind): stats here.

Carlos Gaviria won two departments: La Guajira and Nariño.

Serpa won no departments, including his home of Santander–which he lost to Uribe by a factor of 1.7.

Gaviria beat Serpa in all but three departments: Córdoba, San Andrés, and Santander. Gaviria and Serpa tied for second in the tiny department of Vaupés with 720 votes each.

Uribe also won in all the major departmental capitals: Así votaron las capitales del país en la elección presidencial del domingo. That includes
a 49%-29% win over Serpa in Serpa’s home town of Bucaramanga.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT comes the speculation about a Jeb Bush presidency: A Few Years, and Then Another Bush?

Republican Party leaders continue to talk seriously about a continuation of the dynasty, a Bush III administration, with Jeb as a candidate in 2012 or 2016, when the memory of the current president’s dismal poll ratings will be less of a factor. That, at least, is what happened the last time around: President George Bush’s unpopularity at the end of his term in 1992 did not hurt his eldest son when he ran for president eight years later.

It is clear that in 2008 would be a bad idea. Indeed, there are reasons to think that it will never be a good idea.

Others say that for all the prevalence of political dynasty in America — the Adamses, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys — Bush III would still be a hard sell. “After two generations of this, I can’t imagine what it would take to make the American people sail again with another Bush,” said Kevin Phillips, the author of “American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush,” a book that is sharply critical of the Bush family.

While I think that there is something to this notion, it is amusing that the quote comes from a harsh critic of the current administration.

Still, one does wonder as to the degree to which we would be willing to have one family occupy the White House that many times in such a short period.

By the same token, 2012 or 2016 are a very long time from now in political years. Who would have thought in 1992 that a Bush would follow Clinton in office?

There is a broader point of interest here, given that Senator Clinton is the current favorite to be nominated by the Democrats: do we really want Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton with the possibility of a Bush after that? There is something distasteful about the fact that we haven’t been able to infuse a bit more diversity of choice into national politics of late.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN: Incumbent wins Colombia presidency

With 85 percent of ballots counted, the conservative Uribe scored a stronger than expected 62 percent of the vote, easily surpassing the 50 percent needed to win in the first round and exceeding pre-election expectations.

In second place, with 22 percent of the votes, was Sen. Carlos Gaviria of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole party. Gaviria’s strong support confirms the rise of the democratic left in this violence-wracked South American nation. In third place was Horacio Serpa, of the century-old Liberal Party, with just below 12 percent.

That didn’t take long.

The initial reports state that the vote was peaceful and turnout was good–although that is always hard to tell by just looking.

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By Steven L. Taylor

In commenting on a photo of herself from 1981, Ann Althouse makes the following delcaration that, no doubt, is an ironclad law of eyewear fashion:

The glasses you’re wearing right now will look stupid in a quarter of a century.

Indeed, it likely won’t take long. The glasses I wore from the mid-to-late 1990s look rather silly at this point, and even the ones I wore before going mostly to contacts a few years back are hardly fashionable now.

I will say that some frames stand the test of time better than do others.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo here’s a good FAQ on the elections.

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By Steven L. Taylor

As noted in the previous post, Justin Delacour points to a piece by Gary Leech at the Colombia Post Online entitled The Rise of the Colombian Left. The piece notes:

While it is true that Uribe will likely be re-elected on May 28—although it no longer appears guaranteed that he will win outright in the first round of voting—his nearest competitor is no longer a candidate from one of Colombia’s traditional political parties. Instead, the center-left Democratic Pole’s candidate Carlos Gaviria is running second in three recent polls. This unprecedented support for a leftist Colombian presidential candidate follows on the heels of the Democratic Pole’s successes in March’s congressional elections. The recent rise of the electoral Left in Colombia has primarily come at the expense of the centrist Liberal party as the country has become increasingly polarized between Right and Left.

Even given Gaviria’s recent movement in the polls, I think it highly, highly unlikely that there will be a second round. Indeed, I think that the piece is reading too much into the recent movement, which is probably at least in part a reflection of the fact that polls in Colombia tend to over-sample urban areas where candidates like Gaviria are likely to do well (in a relative sense). It will not shock me in the least if Serpa still ends up in second place. Although I do think that it is probably in Colombia’s best interest, democratically speaking, for Gaviria to come in second–not because he represents the democratic left (or for any other ideological reason) but because he represents the ability of new parties to form and to be successful in a system that needs new blood in its party system.

Still, there is no doubt that the Democratic Pole’s success in the March elections and the fact that their presidential candidates may come in a distant second in the first round are both very positive signs for the party, I would caution Mr. Leech over reading too much into any of it at this stage–there simply isn’t enough data.

Further, those who know Colombia have been down this road before: similar prognostications were made about the AD/M-19 (a political party that emerged from the M-19 guerrilla groups demobilization in that lat 1980s). The AD/M-19 was initially quite successful and looked poised to be a third force in Colombian politics behind the Liberal and Conservative Parties. However, the party largely self-destructed in the 1990s and the structural conditions of the electoral system also continued to favor large parties, especially the PL.

Still, the main trouble for the party was internal–indeed, the electoral rules under the 1991 Constitution, at least for the Senate, provided ample opportunity for the AD/M-19 to build a niche in Colombian politics. However, strategic errors in the 1994 elections, which were a reflection of the the lack of cohesion amongst its membership, made that impossible.

The previous attempt at a leftward political party was the Unión Patriótica, or Patriot Union, which was conceived of as a non-violent, electoral arm of the FARC. The UP had some minor electoral success in the 1980s, although their prospects of becoming a major electoral force was always slim. More significantly, however, is the fact that in the mid-1980s, even after the UP severed ties with FARC, paramilitary groups (and likely the military itself in cases) assassinated hundreds of members of the UP so that by the late 1980s, the party had almost ceased to exist and by 2002 had wholly faded from the scene.

(As a side note, I would point out the UP was more radically left than either the AD/M-19 or the PDA.)

The slaughter of the UP is one of the more tragic chapters in the long and bloody history of Colombian politics. There is little doubt that the attacks on the UP created a very difficult political climate for those wishing to run from the left in Colombia and also has made, to this day, negotiations with the FARC extremely difficult.

Along these lines, Leech’s piece makes an irresponsible linkage between the current era and events of twenty years ago:

Of course, whether or not the Left achieves such an unprecedented success in 2010 may well depend on whether or not the Uribe administration’s dirty war excesses contribute to a repeat of the slaughter of the leftist Patriotic Union in the late-1980s. Hopefully, the Democratic Pole will be spared the fate that befell its leftist predecessor and Colombia can show that it has finally moved beyond such barbaric electoral practices.

While there continue to be serious questions about linkages between the Colombian military and paramilitary groups, there is no evidence to suggest anything akin to the targeting of the UP has taken place during the Uribe administration. Certainly there is nothing to suggest that the Alternative Democratic Pole is the target of systematic violence. Further, I do not think that the appellation “Dirty War” (given its connotations when connected to the actions of the Argentine, Brazilian and Chilean authoritarian governments of the 70s and 80s) is appropriate in this case. There are clear and troubling violations of human rights in the ongoing political conflict in Colombia (on all sides), but I would argue that it isn’t fair (or accurate) to tag it with that label.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Some other blogging on the Colombian presidential elections:

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By Steven L. Taylor

Today Colombians go to the polls to determine who will be their president for the 2006-2010 term (they had congressional elections in March). Here, then, in my final profile of the major candidates.

Previous posts:

    Álvaro Uribe

Uribe is the sitting President (an independent who used to be a member of PL). He has been arguably the most popular president in Colombian history–so much so that the constitution was amended to allow him to run for a second term. The 1991 constitution had limited presidents to one four-year term, and the previous constitution (that of 1886) had allowed only non-concurrent terms (hence, Uribe will not be the first president in Colombian history to serve two terms, but he will be the first to have back-to-back terms).

It is widely assumed that he will win outright today. The Colombian constitution requires 50% +1 to be elected president, failing that in the first round, the top two vote-getters would meet in four weeks. However, the likelihood is that, like in 2002, Uribe will only need one round to win.

Uribe was educated at the University of Antioquia (where his now-rival, Carlos Gavria, was one of his professors) and at Harvard. He also taught for a time at Oxford.

Politically he started out as a member of the Liberal Party, but ran as an independent in 2002.

Here are some highlights of his political career:

PL Senator 1986-1990, 1990-1991, 1991-1994
Alcalde de Medellín en 1982
concejal (Medellin) 84-86.
Gobernador de Antioquia 1995-1997.

Uribe has been an extremely strong ally of the US and of the Bush administration. Indeed, while Colombia has normally had excellent relations with the US, Uribe is perhaps the friendliest to the US of any Colombian president ever.

Some trivia: there have been numerous attempts on Uribe’s life, including one in 2002 when he was a candidate that involved a bomb hidden in a Bible.

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