jueves, 29 de mayo de 2014

Colombian Conservatives split support for presidential rivals

With its candidate out of the second round of the Colombian presidential elections, the veteran Conservative Party was reportedly divided in its support for the two candidates competing on 15 June, the pragmatic President Juan Manuel Santos, or Óscar Iván Zuluaga of the very conservative Democratic Centre. The division was not surprising as both were broadly conservative, but opposed until recently on the issue of negotiating or not with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a project closely associated with Santos government. Mr Zuluaga has for months opposed the talks as a ploy to help FARC leaders avoid prosecution. But perhaps sensing the possible cost of intransigence with millions of moderately conservative voters, he changed tack on 28 May in what the President termed a "cynical" manoeuvre. That day he signed a pledge to "give the talks a chance" in exchange for the support of the ousted Conservative candidate Marta Lucía Ramírez, Radio Santa Fe reported. He stated in a document that if he were president, there would be no agreements "behind the people's back" and talks would continue with "conditions and deadlines that assure tangible, definitive, verifiable results" observed by the international community. In spite of the pledge, some 46 Conservative legislators said they were backing the President, while 38 declared their support for Zuluaga, showing members' personal tendencies inside the party, El Espectador reported. Voters of the other parties - mostly of the Left or environmentalists - were likely to support the President as a lesser evil for them, especially given Mr Zuluaga's close ties to the former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, a popular yet divisive figure in Colombia. The daily El Colombiano observed separately on 29 May that just under a third of the electorate was effectively choosing the next president, if abstention rates remained as high as in the first round of voting. Just under 60 per cent of voters abstained from voting then, it wrote, which alongside blank votes or spoiled ballots, meant 68.5 per cent of voters spurning all candidates.