Colombia is gearing up for congressional elections on Sunday, which may result in a split congress where no party obtains a majority.
Regardless of the outcome, the challenge for the new government after this election — as well as the presidential one in May — will be to unify the country and rebuild trust in institutions, says Lourdes Casanova, director of the Emerging Markets Institute at Cornell University.
“Colombians will vote in the parliamentarian elections this month and the presidential elections in May in a climate of growing distrust in institutions.
“Such distrust is caused by corruption scandals as well as the controversial peace agreement signed in November after more than 50 years of war with the guerrilla group FARC.
“President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping forge this agreement, but the process still generated significant opposition from many Colombians, including the popular former president Alvaro Uribe.
“Drug trafficking and insecurity still persists in rural areas and remain a major preoccupation for all. As a result, the elections are taking place in a very fragmented country, divided between those who supported and rejected the peace agreements.
“Today’s withdrawal from the presidential race of FARC’s Rodrigo Londoño may constitute a positive development or the FARC themselves. Londoño has long been a controversial figure in Colombia. While he personally is now out of the picture, the FARC are still expected to get parliamentarian representation and the group still maintains support among the poorest.
“Regardless of who wins, the main challenge ahead will be to unify the country, to rebuild trust in institutions and create momentum for a positive future.”