Sunday, June 15, 2008

Uribe and a third term Part 3

The rumors of whether Alvaro Uribe will seek a third term are constantly swirling (see parts 1 and 2). Now Luis Carlos Villegas, the head of an important industrial group, who greatly admires Uribe, says he should not try to run again. Even though believes Uribe is the best president Colombia has ever had, he argues that staying in power would be "dangerous" for the country.

This is the sort of voice that will be necessary to convince Uribe to step aside, a political ally reminding Uribe that he is not indispensable, that staying in power too long is bad for the country, and that democracies require, as he puts it, "renovación."

But will he listen?


Anonymous,  3:55 PM  

It is not as though it is only his choice. He has not one, but several parties in his coalition, which is thus loaded with ambitious politicians who have a national profile. They can be certain to make life difficult for him if he pushes for a third term. And, as your post makes clear, there are important allies outside of congress and the parties who are ready to urge him against pursuing another term.

Uribe would need a constitutional amendment, and I do not think he could get it through congress and the constitutional court (as he did, rather easily, for the previous change to allow two consecutive terms).

So, how would he get it? Call a para-constitutional referendum (he has no such clear authority)? That would be a coup, in effect, and I do not believe he would have sufficient support in any institution to pull that off. He may have the public support, but I suspect it would fall apart as soon as the inevitable clash of institutions began.

Maybe I am overstating the institutionalization of Colombian democracy. But I do not think so.

Boli-Nica 4:26 PM  

The old saw about power corrupting absolute power corrupting absolutely applies here. It also makes him a continuing target, and the unsavory associations will come back to bite him.

Uribe needs to quit while he is still ahead. His legacy will not be questioned, and many of his measures will no doubt be continued by whoever follows.

Anyone with any experience in Colombia the past 20 or 10 years, knows just how terrible and demoralizing the violence was. Uribe's rule has seen a dramatic rise in security, that is astonishing. That enough has given him a legacy, and something every following ruler will build on.

Steven Taylor 6:32 PM  

I wholly concur with MSS's assessment of the situation. I have long maintained that Uribe would not be able to push an amendment to get a third term, and I continue to believe that that is the case.

I will confess, however, as to some surprise (not a lot, but some) that the topic has been as discussed as it has been and that Uribe has flirted with it as much as he has.

I wrote about the issue here just over two years ago. On balance, I stand by the assessment.

Greg Weeks 7:49 PM  

I won’t try to predict what Uribe will do, but I am not convinced it would necessarily be so difficult or that the coalition would automatically be a major barrier. Maybe it would, but I haven’t yet seen evidence to that effect. He is clearly testing the waters, so believes it is possible. Also, I’ve not heard any member of his coalition suggest he should step aside (if anyone has, then let me know). Much depends also, however, on what happens with the FARC, because Uribe still has two years left, and given his past comments, he would be more likely not to push for a third term if the violence had subsided significantly.

Anonymous,  10:08 PM  

For what it's worth, Gustavo Petro, in the fascinating (from a political perspective) interview in which he declares his presidential candidacy, says that he thinks that the sinking of the "silla vacia" reform was carried out precisely to preserve the third term option. See:

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