a fight in the Historical Pact to rent a balcony; at stake are the 2023 elections

With less than a year to go before the regional and local elections, the tensions in the Historical Pact seem to be getting worse. The leftist platform that brought Gustavo Petro to the presidency will now seek regional power. In October of next year it aims to win 600 mayors, 15 governorships and elect 3,000 councilors and 600 deputies. These are ambitious figures for a coalition that, in addition to the Casa de Nariño, obtained an important victory with 2.5 million votes in the legislative elections.

The objective is clear, but the route is not defined. First of all, we have to wait and see how Gustavo Petro’s government progresses and what its performance will be in the coming year. A possible recession threatens to hit the national economy and households.

As Petro grapples with this worrisome outlook, the divisions in his coalition are becoming more public. On the one hand, the discontent of sectors such as the Democratic Pole and the Mais party due to the lack of bureaucratic participation. Although they don’t say it, they are dissatisfied and want more play in the cabinet. The issue has been raised in internal meetings, but the president evades the matter, according to a source told SEMANA.

In the regions, the bulk of the bureaucracy is still in the hands of the traditional parties and this annoys the Petrista bench, which fears a disadvantage against its adversaries in 2023. To this must be added the deep differences between Senator Gustavo Bolívar and the president of the Senate, Roy Barreras. The clash comes from the conformation of the Senate lists and worsened when Petro preferred Barreras as president of that corporation.

This week, Bolívar revealed what could be the way in which candidates for mayors and governors would be chosen, but Barreras, who moves like a fish in water among progressive sectors, contradicted him.

The problems between the two senators began when Petro favored Barreras as president of the Senate. – Photo: alexandra ruiz poveda-week

Bolívar believes that no party in the Historical Pact should give individual endorsements and whoever wants to be a candidate has to beat the other applicants in consultations. “Whoever wins will be the Pact candidate, but their possibilities are being analyzed. They are looking to see if there is a need to ally with other similar parties, that is, the Green Alliance and the Liberal Party, and never the Democratic Center or Radical Change”, said Bolívar.

He is uncomfortable with the government’s treatment of some progressive sectors and believes that in 2023 the same mistakes as in the legislative elections should not be made.

“That what is happening now with the bureaucracy does not happen to the bases of the alternative parties with the endorsements: that it remains in the hands of those who have not fought for the cause, those who reached the end or, what is worse, , those who came later,” he said. Bolívar did not mention names, but the addressee was clear: he referred to that Santista line that gained space for the progressive sectors in the Casa de Nariño and that today speaks in the president’s ear.

Barreras felt alluded to by Bolívar’s message and responded: “We are all in the Pact, including those of demoliberal origin (proudly from Santista for peace for 15 years in my case). Ada and the Peace Force are founders and builders of the Pact that made possible the triumph of a progressive government”. In addition, he spoke of a more open broad front in which the left and progressive sectors do not fit exclusively.

  gustavo bolivar
Gustavo Bolívar is going to resign from the Senate in March, but the fight would not end there. – Photo: juan carlos sierra week

The fight between Bolívar and Barreras is for renting a balcony. Even if Bolívar resigns from the Senate in March, he will continue to influence regional elections. In fact, the radical left wing in the Historical Pact believes that his presence is necessary in the regions. Barreras, for his part, will have power in the choice of candidates for mayoralty and governorship. With his handling of Congress, he has earned recognition and has become close to Senator María José Pizarro and the president of the House, David Racero, who also speak to Petro in his ear.

In addition, the National Electoral Council (CNE) is studying the request to convert the Fuerza de la Paz movement, of which Barreras is a part, into a political party. SEMANA learned that this decision would come out in his favor in a matter of weeks and would give him greater decision-making power in the Historical Pact.

Bolívar and Barreras know that Petro is playing its first litmus test in October 2023, with elections that could become a referendum to approve or reject the presidential administration. The new regional power map will also shed light on whether the left will have the strength to maintain power in the 2026 presidential elections.

The president knows the differences in the Historical Pact. In fact, he is taught to weather them with his prolonged silence. He knows that it is impossible to have united a broad front of progressive forces that starts from the difference. For this reason, he insists on turning the Historical Pact into a single party, with a single legal capacity.

“The most appropriate decision is to merge and materialize the unity of Colombian progressivism. We must learn from the good decisions of the past, such as the closed, equal, and alternating lists,” Senator María José Pizarro told SEMANA.

Maria Jose Pizarro
María José Pizarro, a congresswoman for the Historical Pact, is also an important figure in Petrism. – Photo: Juan Carlos Sierra Money

The proposal is attractive, but risky for some parties that consider that they would lose spaces of power. Some leaders of the Polo Democrático and Mais would not be willing to leave behind their legal status, as they would remain under the exclusive umbrella of Petro.

There is still no final decision, but the representative Alirio Uribe is aware that it is almost impossible for the merger to take place in 2023.

However, if the political reform is approved in May and passes the control of the Constitutional Court, the one-time turncoat article would be approved. That would generate a flight of members of the Polo Democrático and the Mais towards Colombia Humana or the party that President Petro eventually manages to form.

The Historical Pact could end up united and the discussion of the closed lists would return. Bogotá councilor Carlos Carrillo believes that in the case of the country’s capital, with the more than 2.2 million votes that Petro obtained in the second presidential round, a closed list could mark out almost ten councilors for the city.

Mayor Claudia López attended the Bogotá Council to defend the link between the city and the Metropolitan Region.
Seeking to replace Claudia López in the Bogotá Mayor’s Office will be a debate that will have to take place in the Historical Pact. – Photo: Bogota City Hall

The problem will be to reach an agreement with the national committee that will be in charge of assembling the closed lists by departments and municipalities, because those who are in the first places will win. Today many remember the chaos and the ruptures that were generated in the allocation of seats to the Senate and the Chamber.

Another fight that is coming is who will win the candidacy for mayor of Bogotá. Today in the Historical Pact there is no weighty profile and, if the political reform does not manage to pass, the names of Gustavo Bolívar, Clara López, María José Pizarro, David Racero and Katherine Miranda would only remain in the rattle and it would be necessary to think about a plan b.

Former Secretary of Government Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo and councilor Carlos Carrillo could enlist their aspirations, but the issue is not that simple, since a sector of Petrism believes that there should be a union with the Green Alliance. However, those close to Claudia López say that she is not willing to support a candidate other than the one she signed. In addition, the Petrista bench in the Council is a harsh critic of the mayoress’s management.

The electoral success of the Historical Pact in the 2023 elections will depend on the upcoming decisions, when regional and local power will be at stake.

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