Foremost for many Colombian voters is the fate of the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian government and the left-wing guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The landmark agreement represented a potential end to the western hemisphere’s longest-running conflict – but implementation appears to be in trouble.
President Iván Duque, a right-wing politician, campaigned in 2018 on a promise to dismantle the accords. The current favorite to win, Gustavo Petro, is a demobilized guerrilla member of the leftist M-19 group and is one of the favorites to win this year’s elections.
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Previous research on the legacies of political violence suggests that voters who have been exposed to violence in the past tend to vote more militantly – supporting politicians who are “war hawks” as opposed to “doves of peace”. However, my to research shows that in municipalities where there had been violence perpetrated by the FARC, there was more support for “dove” policies, such as the 2016 referendum vote.
This is how I did my research
To investigate how the legacy of political violence affects citizen voting, I examined three different elections in Colombia. These elections focused on the issue of peace and the peace agreement with the FARC: the second round of the presidential elections of 2014, the elections of 2016 referendum vote on the peace accord itself and the run-off of the 2018 presidential elections when Duque was elected. Although the referendum narrowly failed, Colombia’s congress subsequently approved the peace accord.
I analyzed data on violent events that took place in Colombian municipal administrative regions from 1992 to 2012, compiled by the Colombian Investigative Research Center The Center for Popular Education and Investigation, CINEP. I also collected information on the local populations and economies of National Department of Administrative Statistics of Colombia (DANE). And I collected the results of the 2014, 2016 and 2018 elections at the municipal level from DANE. To these, I have added additional information on the risks of electoral fraud and violence, as well as the presence of armed groups, using data from the International Election Observation Mission (EOM). Using this combined dataset, I explored the relationship between the sequelae of political violence and voter behavior.
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How does violence leave an impact on voters?
My study suggests that people exposed to violence by FARC members were more likely to have voted in favor of a peace agreement with the FARC.
In 2016, Colombians who had been exposed to violence were more likely to turn out to vote, compared to those who lived in municipalities exposed to less or no violence. And in 2018, people were more likely to vote and less likely to vote for Duque, who many saw as representing a “war hawk” option.
Previous studies have argued that violence begets more violence. However, in the case of Colombia, voters exposed to violence seem more likely to support pro-peace candidates and policies rather than risk a return to violence, under leaders they perceive to be more militant in nature.
The lived realities of many Colombian citizens involve histories of violence, growing levels of inequality, and government corruption. Whether a left-wing or right-wing candidate is in power may not matter much, given these serious challenges. But in the 2016 plebiscite to approve the peace deal, citizens saw something that could change their country, and that was worth it.
What does this mean for the 2022 elections?
As Colombia continues to see assassinations of human rights and environmental activists, as well as the assassination of demobilized FARC combatantsmany citizens are wondering whether the 2016 peace accords will go down in history as yet another failed attempt to bring peace and security to the country.
Whoever wins the next election will have serious implications for the accords – if Colombia’s next presidential administration tries its best to circumvent the accords, the peace deal could fail. But the peace deal could last, if the next president shows a real commitment to respecting Colombia’s market share, such as providing more aid to affected municipalities and providing more protection to community leaders in areas where there is a resurgence of armed attacks. group activity. Duque has done his best to slow down the implementation of the peace accords, including an attempt to block the jurisdiction of the transitional justice court, the JEP.
The results of the legislative elections last month suggest that Colombians want change. Voters are concerned about the economic crisis in Colombia, as well as the upsurge in crime and armed groups reconsolidated in the countryside when the implementation of the peace agreements slowed down.
Petro decisively won the presidential primaries in March. He campaigned on the promise of a pledge to renew the languishing peace accord, replace fossil fuel profits with those from other sectors and redistribute wealth. My research suggests Petro’s stated commitment to the 2016 peace accord could help his campaign, though his other policies and guerrilla background may divide some voters.