With Colombia’s 2018 Presidential Election now less than 8 months away, parties have begun the process of selecting the candidate that will represent them in the election. The next party to select their nominee will be Colombia’s center-right Centro Democrático party, in a process that will take place in mid-November.
The Centro Democrático was founded in 2014 by former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe after the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, shifted to the left with policy outreaches that included concessions and negotiations with terrorist groups operating within the country. Though often characterized as right-wing in the Colombian media, Uribe’s policies have included higher taxes on businesses, increasing the country’s IVA from 8% to 16% and mandatory overtime pay for workers. However, the party is adamantly opposed to the 2016 Havana Accords, an agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group which included amnesty for FARC criminals, monthly stipends, and 10 guaranteed seats in the country’s congress.
Among the primary candidates for the CD’s nomination this November are lifelong politician Ivan Duque and Paloma Valencia, considered by many to be a protégé of Uribe. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who won the party’s nomination in 2014 but lost to Santos, has also expressed an interest in representing the party.
Uribe and his party are polarizing figures in Colombia’s politics. Though still wildly popular in his home state of Antioquia, Uribe’s approval numbers in the country’s leftist strongholds in coastal cities and the capital of Bogotá are abysmally low. Early campaign rhetoric from the CD has attempted to frame the 2018 election as a referendum on the Havana Accords, which remain unpopular in the Andean nation. The accords were rejected in a nationwide referendum in October 2016, only to be implemented by President Santos against the will of the Colombian people.
However corruption remains the most important issue to Colombians in recent polls. The Odebrecht bribery scandal has implicated politicians in every level of service in the country, and politicians running on an anti-corruption stance have seen their numbers swell in early polling. The Centro Democrático has adopted an anti-corruption platform as well, with Uribe telling a crowd in Sucre on Sunday that the party will not tolerate any corruption from its officials.
“We have the power to fight against corruption; we have to have consistency and set an example. We are not going to permit corruption in our party“, Uribe said at the rally.
Whomever is chosen in November, the candidate will carry the banner of what is being called the “great coalition of NO”. The party is set to represent an end to corruption in Colombian politics and the end of using financial incentives to entice domestic terrorists to lay down their arms, a policy that is both widely unpopular and has proven ineffective for the country.