Fate of Colombian FARC Peace Deal May Rest in June Presidential Election
Last Sunday’s presidential election in Colombia saw former senator Ivan Duque, from Centro Democratico, win 39 percent of the vote, while ex-rebel-turned-politician Gustavo Petro took nearly 25 percent of the vote. Coming in third was ex-Medellin mayor Sergio Fajardo, who earned 24 percent. A central issue is the fate of the Columbia – FARC peace deal.
Neither of the candidates earned 50 percent of the votes, which means that the two candidates with the most votes will compete in the second round.
The runoff will be held on June 17. Whoever wins the election will succeed the incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, who will end his term in August 2018 after taking office for two consecutive periods. Santos won the Nobel Peace Price in 2016 for his role in ending the 50-year-old civil war that killed over 240,000 people and forced seven million to seek refuge.
Last Sunday’s poll was marked by a high turnout. Around 53 percent of the country’s 36 million population participated in the poll, the highest turnout in the presidential poll in the last two decades.
The election was the first election after the signing of the peace deal between the government and the guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia( FARC) in 2016. The conflict had lasted for over five decades and began when FARC and the smaller-scale rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) formed in the 1960s to fight for the rights of the poor.
What do the candidates offer?
During the campaign, business-friendly Duque promised a faster economic development by focusing on the private sector and simplifying taxation.
Controversially, the 41-year-old politician also stated he would not support the peace deal signed by Santos and FARC in November 2016, saying that members of terrorist groups must be punished.
“We do not want to tear up the agreements. What we want is to make clear that a peaceful Colombia is a Colombia that is where peace is found through justice, where there is truth, there are reparations, and punishments are served,” Duque said.
Gustavo Petro, on the other hand, was once part of the M-19 guerrilla group, who played a vital role in the peace process between guerilla groups and Bogota. The 58-year-old started became active in politics after receiving a pardon. He was elected as a Congress member four times and became the mayor of Bogota from 2012 to 2015. While serving as a mayor, the left-wing politician became known as a leader who fought for clean water for the capital’s residents. His policies are considered pro-poor.
The peace that divides the country
Duque is a strong critic of the FARC deal. Many Colombians oppose the deal and feel that the accord is too lenient as it allows former rebels to enter politics and have their sentence reduced. Petro supports the deal but criticizes it for doing little to achieve social reform.
Many Colombians vented frustration with both candidates policies towards FARC.
“Do we really have to choose between Gustavito and Ivancito?” an incredulous Paola Ochoa asked in her El Tiempo newspaper column Monday as the dust from a nail-biting election day began to settle. “Between a future with the FARC in the Senate or the FARC firing rounds again in the Colombian countryside?”
Whether Colombia will revise the FARC peace deal or not may be decided on June 17, the date of Columbia’s presidential run-off.