FARC loses the elections in Colombia
The Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, which consists of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC) gained only 100,000 votes in the first elections to the National Congress. The Colombians proved they remember about several years of bloody fights between FARC and the government. The civil war begun in 1964 and at least 220,000 people have been killed since then.
The guaranteed seats in the Parliament
For the first time in over 52 years, the Colombians could participate in the elections without being worried about their lives. It was possible because of the recent agreement between the government and FARC, signed in Havana in 2016.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia developed in the 1960s as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party and soon became a guerrilla group. Although its members claimed they were fighting for the rights of the rural population, confidence in them was undermined when they began to kidnap people for ransom and started drug trafficking.
The rebels, during the first legal convention in September 2017, established the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force party with the intention of taking part in elections to the National Congress. They agreed to lay down their weapons and provide detailed information on drug trafficking. According to the peace talks results, FARC – regardless of the elections’ results – is guaranteed 10 seats in the National Congress until 2026.
A historic day for Colombia
FARC decided to present 23 candidates in the elections to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. Most of them have been guerrilla fighters for years, organizing assassinations and kidnappings. The elections proved that it is a long way for the newly created party to gain people’s confidence and political support. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia gained 52,532 votes in the Senate elections, a bit more than the party consisted of soldiers and a social organization. FARC also got 33,636 votes to the House of Representatives. Undoubtedly FARC lost the elections. However, according to the agreement with the government, FARC will have five of its members in the House of Representatives and five members in the Senate.
Iván Márquez (Luciano Marin Arango is his true name), was the head of the FARC delegation during the peace talks with the government as well as one of the leading partisans. He won 888 votes during the elections. 73 warrants for his arrest have been issued so far. He is accused of organizing ambushes aimed at military patrols, kidnapping and planning an attack on the club El Nogal, where 36 people were killed and 200 were wounded. The US Department of State considers him a drug dealer and offers $5 million award for information about him.
Now Márquez will sit in the Congress next to Álvaro Uribe Vélez, a former President of Colombia, who got 860,000 votes in the Senate elections, the most in the history of the country. Many people supported him because he was against signing a peace agreement with FARC in its current shape. He believed that FARC must take responsibility for the crimes it committed and the government should not guarantee it any seats in the Congress.
The opponents of the former President accuse him of supporting paramilitary units during his political career. These units, often paid for by wealthy landowners, were fighting against FARC, but also killed many farmers, kidnapped people and started dealing drugs.
FARC lost, FARC won
According to political scientist Andrés Mejía Vergnaud, although FARC lost the elections, some of the former revolutionaries, that took part in the elections for the first time, gained some experience so it might be considered as a success. There were photos in the media of smiling Iván Márquez at the moment of throwing the ballot paper into the ballot box. Carlos Antonio Lozada, who was fighting in the guerrilla from the age of 17, came to the polling station with his fiancée and a few-month-old child. Pablo Catatumbo, another FARC congressman, wrote on Twitter on the day of the election: “A historic day for Colombia! During 64 years of my life, I vote for the first time and I am therefore moved and very happy because I am doing it for peace and reconciliation of our nation.”.
He also added that the campaign was not easy for FARC: “50 of our soldiers were killed. We must face the elements that are still trying to inspire hatred between the brothers. But we resist this because we are convinced that this is the right way to do.”
– I did not expect much, but I am struck by the fact that they gained few votes in the regions where they had a lot of influence, especially in the east of the country – said Andrés Mejía Vergnaud in an interview with PanAm Post.
On the other hand, Ariel Avila from the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation believes that FARC poor performance in the elections is hardly surprising because they are partisans who do not know the world of politics. It is difficult for them to compete with people who have been dealing with this for 50 years.
– They took them off the street, they had no money, they did not have any tv adverts – says Avila. – In addition, little time has passed between the ceasefire and the elections. People still hate them.
In his opinion, the rural population felt especially disappointed by the results of the peace talks, as they hoped FARC would force the government to carry out various reforms improving life in the country. However, the political scientist thinks it was a good thing, because before the elections many Colombians thought that FARC would use their drug trafficking money to buy people’s votes in areas where they still have influence.
– Now voters know that it was a rumour out of nothing. In addition, a large part of the votes come from Bogota and other department capitals, which works in their favour – says Daniel López, political scientist at Rosario University. – FARC will not have their presidential candidate, so now we have to wait for the next Congress elections in 2022 to see if the party organizes itself better and draws the attention of the electors.