lunes, 10 de marzo de 2014

Colombian President conciliatory with rival after polls

President Juan Manuel Santos praised Colombians for peacefully voting in the country's parliamentary polls on 9 March and particularly expressed hope that one of his great critics, former president Álvaro Uribe, now a senator, would soften his hostility to the Government. President Santos congratulated the Democratic Centre party led by Mr Uribe for provisionally winning some 19-20 seats in the Senate but politely reminded it that the President's own party, the U or Unity party, remained ahead and effectively dominated both Senate and the lower legislative house, El Espectador reported on 10 March. "Today was a great day for everyone. Firstly it was a great day for Colombia. These were the most peaceful, safest elections we have had in our recent history," the President was reported as saying. He added it was a great day in particular for the various parties backing the Government's bid to sign peace with the communist guerrilla armies, the FARC and the ELN. Mr Uribe's Democratic Centre was not one of those parties. Yet Mr Santos said "I also want to congratulate Senator Uribe: your group had a decorous second place. I hope we can put aside the hatred and rancour and work for the country." Mr Uribe was pleased with the results. He wrote on the website Twitter that the Democratic Centre is born today. El Espectador commented on 9 March that the elections provided, after months of guessing, a measure of the electoral support for Mr Uribe and his party. While he is one of Colombia's most prominent, outspoken and spoken-of politicians, the daily observed that the "right proportion" of support for him was shown to be about 17 per cent of electors. That it stated would turn his party into a "strong opposition in the Senate, and very weak in the Chamber of Representatives, where it is marginal." It observed that the Government and its allies would likely seek to make use of their relative strength in the lower chamber to push through legislative initiatives. The Cali newspaper El País expressed another type of concern on 10 March. It observed that investigations by certain NGOs such as the the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, suggested that 25 new senators were suspected of ties to "illegal groups," which could mean either communist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries or criminal gangs, though most it seems were suspected of being tied to paramilitaries in rural or outlying constituencies. It called these the "third generation" of "parapoliticians" entering the Colombian legislature.

Right and Centre divide parliament in Colombia polls

A provisional count of votes cast in Colombia's parliamentary elections on 9 March gave the country's main political forces - the U or Unity party supporting President Juan Manuel Santos, the Conservatives and Liberals, and the Democratic Centre headed by the former president Álvaro Uribe - a vast majority of seats and control of the country's two legislative chambers. Mr Uribe's party had been augured to do well, with some uncertainty as to the extent of its support. With some 98 per cent of votes counted, it had won 19-20 of 102 seats in the Senate - making the former president a senator and likely the Senate's most prominent member - while the Conservatives, who share many positions with the Democratic Centre and have criticized the present Government's policies and peace talks with left-wing guerrillas, were estimated to have won 18 seats, Radio Santa Fe reported on 10 March. The officialist U Party was likely to win 22 senatorial seats and the Liberals, effectively its allies, had 17. Other parties and coalitions had won five or more seats each. In the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, presidential allies appeared to have done better. The provisional count for the presidential allies were 39 seats for the Liberals, 37 for the U party, followed by 27 for the Conservatives, 16 for Radical Change or Cambio Radical which split from the Liberals in 1998, and 12 for the Democratic Centre. The Green Alliance was expected to have six seats in the Chamber and five in the Senate, Radio Santa Fe reported. Aside Mr Uribe, prominent politicians taking up seats in the Senate included the Liberal veteran Horacio Serpa Uribe, and the former marxist guerrilla Antonio Navarro Wolff for the Greens.