LatinNews Daily - 14 March 2022

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COLOMBIA: Congress retains rightwards tilt after legislative vote

Preliminary results from Colombia’s 13 March legislative elections point to a fragmented congress that will pose difficulties for the three presidential candidates that won primaries on the same day ahead of the 29 May presidential first round.


The preliminary legislative results pointed to a major shift, with the unpopularity of the ruling right-wing Centro Democrático (CD) costing it dearly. The leftist Pacto Histórico por Colombia (Pacto) coalition made significant gains, but not enough to grant Gustavo Petro, who won the presidential primary elections for Pacto, free reign over congress if his current dominance in the polls leads him to the presidency. Instead, centrist parties look set to exercise significant influence under the next president when the new congress takes up its seats on 20 July, with the potential to restrain radical moves towards either the left or right.

  • With 99.41% of the legislative vote counted, preliminary results from Colombia’s national civil registry show that in the 102-member senate, left-of-centre parties are set to hold 31 seats, with Pacto on an unprecedented 16 and traditional centre-left Partido Liberal (PL) party on 15 seats.
  • Right-wing parties will however remain the dominant force in the senate, winning a provisional 45 seats between them, headed by the Partido Conservador (PC) (16), making it the joint largest force in the senate alongside Pacto. The right’s success came despite a decline in support for CD, which went from being the largest legislative force with 19 seats, to the fourth-largest force with 14 senators.
  • In the lower chamber which comprises 165 seats plus 16 new congressional representatives for so-called “peace” seats (special transitory peace districts, CITREP), PL is leading the provisional vote with 32 seats, followed by Pacto and the PC, both on 25. CD came in with 16 seats – half the number it won in the 2018 election.
  • Centrist parties are therefore likely to play an outsized role in coalition negotiations following the presidential election, with centrist parties set to take 24 seats in the senate and 29 in the lower chamber. The PL, whilst nominally a centre-left party, is also likely to act as a restraining force if Petro or a right-wing candidate wins the presidency.
  • Meanwhile the primary elections offered few surprises, nominating the favourites for the three main presidential coalitions. As well as Petro (Pacto), Federico Gutiérrez won the right-wing Equipo por Colombia ticket, and Sergio Fajardo the centrist Coalición Centro Esperanza.
  • A current senator for the left-wing Colombia Humana and the frontrunner in all polls for the presidential first round, Petro decisively won the Pacto primary with 80.51% of the vote.
  • Former Medellín mayor Gutiérrez (2016-2019) also won convincingly in the Equipo por Colombia primary, taking 54.18% of the vote and easily surpassing his nearest rival, Álex Char, who took 17.72%.
  • Fajardo, a former mayor of Medellín (2004-2008) and governor of Antioquia department (2012-2016), won less decisively in the Centro Esperanza coalition primary. He took 33.49% of the vote, with his closest rival, Juan Manuel Galán (Nuevo Liberalismo) receiving 22.55%.

Looking Ahead: Petro is the only primary winner unlikely to face fragmentation in his core voter bloc in the presidential first round. Gutiérrez is set to face competition for the right-wing vote from Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the CD candidate who in January announced that he would not be joining the right-wing coalition, and from the populist Rodolfo Hernández, who also did not enter the primary and frequently beats Gutiérrez in the polls. Fajardo may face a similar problem in the centre, given the withdrawal from the centrist primary of Íngrid Betancourt (Partido Oxígeno Verde).

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