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Signature collection, sophistry to mimic a renewed image

The electoral debate after the Havana peace talks, with all this, implies and above all the race for capturing government funds and the benefits derived from exercising this administration, have placed a starting point to a never before seen presidential hopefuls.

Definitely the Colombian political and corrupt patronage encourages any citizen, and not always the most suitable, to have presidential aspirations. At first, this is not bad at all, if we are expecting from peace is to bring forward just a bit of democratic openness.

What is really surprising and concerning is that many of these candidates, both leftist and right, have decided to go to the streets and collect signed endorsements as support for their aspirations, relinquishing an endorsement from their own political parties, evidencing a grave issue on how the political system operates.

In Colombia there are two ways to subscribe to be an elected public officer:  

  • Have been endorsed by a political party with legal status/capacity recognized by the National Electoral Council (CNE, for its acronym in Spanish).
  • Collect individual signed endorsements

For the sake of the discussion, individual signed endorsements could be understood for candidates who do not have support from an established political force nor government official pull, but it is totally inadmissible for political figures, many of which have used official seats in governments for their own personal gain or that of their political party.

Of the more than 50 presidential contenders, at least 25 have decided to go for signed endorsements. Among them are names hardly recognized by voters, but are also representatives of old and traditional politics, including:

  • Former vice-president Germán Vargas Lleras, leader of the Cambio Radical party and grandson of liberal ex-president Carlos Lleras Restrepo.
  • Conservative former Solicitor General Alejandro Ordóñez.
  • Former minister and ambassador to the United States and former member of the Partido de la U, Juan Carlos Pinzón.
  • Martha Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense, former Partido de la U Senator in 2006 and presidential candidate in 2014 for the Conservative party.

They all have resigned from important positions within their political parties for the same reason: looking away and avoiding responsibilities in serious corruption cases of their own political parties.

And although the reasons of the “left” and “right” for signed endorsements are not necessarily the same than those representing traditional politics, this demonstrates that their political views do not arouse the interest amongst voters. In this case, including:

  • Former Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, for the Movimiento Progresistas.
  • Former Mayor of Medellín and former Governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo, and now militant of the Partido Verde.
  • Former Liberal party Senator Piedad Córdoba.

Regardless of the real winning possibilities of these candidacies and understanding that signed endorsements do not necessarily translate into votes, this flow of hopefuls which look for unwary citizens may be explained for several reasons: nobody can deny that clientism, corruption, and political bosses are great sicknesses of the Colombian political system, and if something represents traditional politics and parties is precisely these maladies.

Currently, nobody believes in political parties, or institutions and much less on people lurking for public endorsements on the streets. Therefore, it is logical that they stand back from the unfavorable image that these collectivities represent... the problem is that the rules of our electoral system allow it.

Moreover, none of these candidates represent an ideology distancing or rejection of the interests represented in their partisan structures, but a very effective political marketing in a country where the electoral mass is moved by passions and not reasons and where appearance and demagogy are more important.

In democratic systems, the role of political parties is to represent the interests of its constituents and mobilize opinion in favor of their objectives. For this, they need to compete in electoral battles and their success will depend on their capacity to produce government programs and policies capable of satisfying social demands, on in case of opposing parties of their capacity to do good political control and turn into a real power alternative.

Opposed to theory, the Colombian political reality shows that the rules of the game are not clear and are really very loose and permissive. In face of this scenario, Colombia needs a real political reform that will allow establishing punishment to parties and their militants who incur in corruption and to help voters make an informed and conscious decision, and less attached to clientism logic.

 

Consejo Editorial