By Claudia Morales, EL ESPECTADOR, November 1, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Catalina Suárez, a commentator for RadioW, pointed out in the Monday morning section that the October 29 election results were the product of Colombians’ “hopelessness” and “because of the fear generated by this administration”. Her conclusion: “what happened yesterday was the real demonstration, where you didn’t see the contractors putting pressure; it was one in which it was just every person with their own vote.”
It’s true that Gustavo Petro is producing more and more uncertainty and resistance, but if we measure the regional efforts, exercised by the muscle of the Presidency, it’s worth remembering that in 2019, when Iván Duque was President, the result for his Democratic Center Party in the regional elections was catastrophic, and the same thing happened in 2015 when Juan Manuel Santos and his U Party held the Presidency. Besides that, the dynamics in the regions are very different from the centralism we are so accustomed to.
An example: in Quindío the debate did not turn on Petro’s narrative about his governing priorities. The Historic Pact Party is irrelevant there. Ever since 2022, the political mafias have profiled their hereditary candidates and moved the machinery required to win the election. That was going on while thousands of citizens of the department were demonstrating their disgust. On October 29, the “vote in blank” took third place in the voting for governor and mayor in Armenia. In the regional elections of 2019, the “vote in blank” won second place for those same positions. One more statistic: In Armenia, there are 275, 998 citizens eligible to vote and of those, 144,745 voted. James Padilla, the candidate for the Radical Change Party and for some other allies, who won the position of mayor of the municipal capital; he won with 35,540 votes. Total anarchy.
And about the fact that now there’s no pressure on contractors, the phrase by former Senator Roberto Gerlein (R.I.P.) is pertinent: “If the voter will not be receiving some economic sweetener, he isn’t going to vote. It could be money, a public position, favors, or just that they paint the front of his house.” Up until now, in the regions, in the campaigns for the councils, assemblies, mayors’ and governors’ offices, the corrupt political clans move rivers of money and pressure on public employees and contractors so they will vote for their candidates; their purpose is to continue the way things are. To examine this more deeply, I recommend that you read the reporting of Catalina Oquendo, “Buying votes; a sophisticated practice deeply rooted in Colombia”, published March 12, 2022 in Spain’s El País.
To round this out: the left and other ideological expressions not part of traditional movements lost the ground they gained in the regionals in 2019, and the clans associated with the Liberal, Conservative, Democratic Center, and Radical Change parties capitalized on the discredit of many of the local government officials and took back power. However, there is another analytical factor suggested by Armando Neira, political editor of EL TIEMPO, in an October 2019 article entitled “The politics of the country are departing from the extremes and embracing the center”. Short-term alliances are surging. “The parties and political movements created 3,142 coalitions and sponsored 5,694 candidates in the whole country.”
So you have to ask: “How do you maintain control and establish political responsibilities when one single sector fails to triumph?” This year the tendency and the doubts follow the same old path.
It’s wrong to simplify what happened last Sunday as a plebiscite in favor of, or In opposition to President Petro. It’s impossible to associate the realities of 32 departments and more than 1,100 municipalities with his vision of government. My vision is that the country, with a very few exceptions, has lost again. I hope that in four years I can repent of that judgment.
 Vote in blank has a place on the ballot. It’s not the same as just not voting. Votes in blank are counted and can have an effect on the outcome of the election.