A total of 32 governors and more than a thousand mayors were elected yesterday in Colombia. The opposition is claiming victory, in part because candidates from the leftist party Polo Democrático Alternativo (PDA) and from the Liberal Party won in some key cities, like Bogotá (the capital), and in some large departments, such as Atlántico, Cundinamarca and Santander. An opposition candidate was also elected in Cali, Colombia’s third largest city.
The political debate in Colombia will now shift to the 2010 presidential elections. The government’s core supporters will argue that it has become necessary to promote a constitutional amendment to allow President Uribe to run for a third term in 2010. The argument is that no other candidate will be able to defeat Lucho Garzón, Bogotá’s popular current mayor, and the most likely PDA presidential candidate in 2010.
Not all members of the government’s coalition think likewise. Cambio Radical, which also obtained electoral success yesterday, will probably oppose Uribe’s reelection. Its leader, German Vargas, wants to run as a presidential candidate himself. The same is true of the conservative party, which has announced that it will have its own candidate.
These are good news for the economy. Even if they like Uribe, investors should remember that third terms have been disastrous in the region. In Colombia, passing a constitutional amendment requires a lot of pork barrel, while having the president run for a third term will certainly result in fiscal expansion and populism, at a time when the priority should be to strengthen fiscal sustainability. With a president focused on leaving a legacy before 2010, chances are that Colombia would make more progress towards the consolidation of security and macroeconomic stability.