Monday, April 22nd 2013 - 08:30 UTC

Colombian president moves to eliminate consecutive re-election

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has signalled he may run for re-election in 2014, but only if he can serve for just two more years, half the usual term, and change the rules for future heads of state.

Santos proposal still to be detailed, calls for an only six year period instead of two consecutive four years

Santos has refused to comment on his plans until the second half of 2013, but analysts say the tone of his appearances in recent months have smacked of a man already on the campaign trail.

“If I run for re-election, the next presidential mandate should be only for two years and, from then on, six years without re-election,” he said in the coastal city of Cartagena. “We’d have to look at the constitutional implications,” he told a meeting of local mayors.

He did not explain why he wanted to change the amount of time a president can stay in office, or to end a president’s right to stand for re-election for one consecutive second term. Both would require constitutional changes that would have to be approved by Congress, where Santos’ allies have a majority.

His proposal signals a change from the prevailing re-re-election tendency in South and Central America, sponsored by populist governments.

The 61-year-old must declare his candidacy six months before a May 2014 election, (November), but weak poll numbers mean he probably needs to start gaining momentum now.

A poll by Invamer Gallup released in February showed Santos with 44% of support, the lowest since he took office in August, 2010.

Santos won that vote by a landslide thanks in part to the support of his ex-boss, former president Álvaro Uribe, who is now the de-facto head of the opposition.

While Santos came to power promising to maintain Uribe’s tough stance against Marxist rebels, the former defence minister took the biggest gamble of his political career when he began peace talks in November with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. If peace talks succeed, Santos’s re-election would be all but clinched.

The main challenger next year will likely be an ally of Uribe, who is still popular for his blows against Marxist rebel groups that made Colombia much safer. He is increasingly critical of Santos.

9 comments Feed

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1 Stevie (#) Apr 22nd, 2013 - 10:24 am Report abuse
When someone is prepared to give more freedom to trade than to elections, you just know something is fishy...
2 Condorito (#) Apr 22nd, 2013 - 12:19 pm Report abuse
This is an interesting proposition by Santos. Limiting presidents to 1 term is a good safe guard against political corruption. Here it has worked very successfully, although I think the 4 year term is too short. Bachelet had to leave office with 80% approval, which bothers me in principle. A longer term makes good sense.
3 JamesS (#) Apr 22nd, 2013 - 12:49 pm Report abuse
an end to populist governments, nice idea ! will they have an urgent meeting with Unasur about this proposition ?
4 Elena (#) Apr 22nd, 2013 - 09:53 pm Report abuse
Very good proposition, while in some cases a second term may be good to keep good govermance going in others it can allow interested groups to form a influence over Goverment institutions by way of the president.
5 British_Kirchnerist (#) Apr 22nd, 2013 - 11:52 pm Report abuse
An interesting proposal; as people on this board know I have a particular distaste for two term limits, it creates an inequality between open elections and those with an incumbent, disqualifies candidates who maybe the most popular, and so on. Funnily enough no re-election, or no consecutive re-election, actually seems a better idea to me, as each election will be the same, with no incumbent. But the proposal for 6 year terms is worrying - the Chartists called for annual parliaments as a democratic demand and I think they had a point - the longer between elections, the less democratic. I think only Iran (that favorite on this board!) has elections for 8 year mandates...
6 malicious bloke (#) Apr 23rd, 2013 - 01:54 am Report abuse
Single year terms are a nonsense though. If someone is elected on the basis of a set of policy promises, 12 months is nothing like enough to get them implemented in any democratic nation.

Limiting a particular head of state to one term i'm fine with, though.
7 Stevie (#) Apr 23rd, 2013 - 02:11 am Report abuse
Limiting terms is plain undemocratic. Let the people choose whom ever they want.
Instead of voting for a person, try voting for a political party with an agenda.
That political party will, with its members, have chosen their candidature to the Presidency.
Instead of throwing pies at eachother during the elections, try presenting ideas, offering solutions.
Let the people decide whom they trust will be the best person for the job.
Total transparency and no restrictions of choice.

That is democracy. Like in the Nordic counteries that by the way are far ahead of you in every list. The very reason they top the suicidal list is that the listmaker was on autopilot.
8 British_Kirchnerist (#) Apr 23rd, 2013 - 08:57 am Report abuse
#6 Annual Parliaments may make more sense, though, than annual presidencies. For the Presidency I think 4 years is about right, with either unlimited, or else no immediate, chance of re-election

#7 A man after my own heart. And apart from the anachronism of the monarchy, much of what your describing is the British method of electing a PM =) As for the actual British PM and his policies, not so good I'm afraid....
9 Condorito (#) Apr 23rd, 2013 - 12:21 pm Report abuse
In theory I agree with you, but in practice the term limit is healthy for democracy, especially in immature democracies.

As you say:
“Instead of voting for a person, try voting for a political party with an agenda.”
That is exactly what a 1 term limit promotes. The person has to step aside, the party has to continue to presenting ideas. It effectively eliminates or dilutes any cult of personality. If the party’s policies are supported by the public it shouldn’t matter who the figure head is, right?

BK, maybe one thing you don’t appreciate from Scotland is that in Latin America, graft and nepotism are very normal in daily transactions and interactions. Much of day to day life still requires “pitutos” (contacts, string to pull) to get things done. This means that the longer a town mayor, or a president is incumbent, the greater the risk that their power starts to extend beyond their remit.

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