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Colombia policy opposition

19 November 2019 Arthur Dhont

The independent U Party (Partido de la U), Radical Change (Cambio Radical: CR), and Liberal Party (Partido Liberal: PL) announced on 7 November that they will field a joint candidate to the National Electoral Council. This indicated that these centrist and center-right parties are likely to co-operate and oppose the government, rather than supporting it on an ad-hoc basis.

The government was left without a legislative majority following the defection from the ruling coalition of U Party legislators in February 2019. Together, the U Party, CR, and PL control 52.3% seats in the lower house and 40.7% seats in the Senate. By contrast, the ruling coalition controls 33.7% of lower house seats and 37% in the Senate. Nearly all remaining seats belong to left-of-center parties of the formal opposition.

President Iván Duque's Democratic Centre (Centro Democrático: CD) party performed poorly in the October regional and local elections, losing 21% of its overall vote share, compared with the 2015 elections, and failed to win control of any major cities. The resignation of Defense Minister Guillermo Botero on 6 October following demands from opposition parties is a further indicator of the government's weakness, while a likely violent nationwide strike and protest planned on 21 November will probably further undermine its authority.

Significance

Opposition to the government is strengthening, increasing the likelihood of protests and legislative defeats frustrating government policy initiatives in 2020. Planned reforms include to add greater flexibility to the labor market and an increase in the pension age.

Negotiations to create a national unity government, including the reallocation of ministries to centrist opposition parties, would indicate that governability is likely to improve in 2020, although policy priorities are likely to shift in this scenario, and are likely to include greater focus on the implementation of the 2016 Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) peace agreement.

Posted 19 November 2019 by Arthur Dhont, Senior Analyst – Americas, Country Risk, IHS Markit

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