Santos coalition squeeze a majority to continue peace talks


President Juan Manuel Santos looks like he may well have just managed to garner enough support in Congress to continue with his peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC).

The legislative election which took place on Sunday was being fiercely contested over whether talks with FARC should continue. Former President Álvaro Uribe and his Democratic Centre (CD) party had been expected to take as much as 23% of the vote; in the end they only managed 14.3% in the Senate in their best showing. However Álvaro Uribe was elected as a Senator and debates are expected to be lively in the upper chamber.

Meanwhile President Santos and his supporters lost seats in both houses and the upper house or senate will be the future battleground. Santos and his Party of the U can expect the support of the Colombian Liberal Party (PLC) and the Radical Change (CR). In the Senate that will give him 47 of the 102 seats whilst he is much safer in the lower chamber, the House of Representatives where he can call on 91 of the 164 seats.

Santos may be able to call on other parties as well, but much will depend upon his coalition building skills. Of particular interest is the position of the Colombian Conservative Party (PCC) and whether they will support their old ally Uribe or side with President Santos on peace talks.

Santos himself faces a re-election challenge on 25th May with a possible second round runoff on 15th June against Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the candidate for Uribe’s party. A candidate must gain more than 50% of the vote to win. The most recent opinion polls give Santos 24.4% support with Zuluaga on 6.3% and Enrique Peñalosa of the Colombian Green Party also on 6.3%. Currently the big winner is the blank votes who are recorded at 41.5%.

Santos may have one further plus point in that the National Liberation Army (ELN), another potent armed group, is expected to start peace talks with the government soon.

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