Political opposition is healthy

These days Colombia’s new president Juan Manuel Santos is going to sign the so called accord of National Unity with a great part of the politicians who were his opponents during the elections: the Conservatives, Cambio Radical, the Liberals and his own party, La U. The idea is that the polarisation that flourished during the Uribe era has to come to an end. That is necessary indeed, but it shouldn’t be a secret way to silence the opposition.

The elections in Colombia were a curious phenomenon. In the course of April and May Juan Manuel Santos and his main opponent Antanas Mockus were more or less equal in the polls. But Juan Manuel Santos won the first round easily. He almost reached the 50 percent and something that are necessary to avoid a second round. And that one was easily gained by him. It seems to have been a combination of good communicative strategy of Santos’s collaborators and accumulating mistakes of the Mockus team.

Mockus represented hope for the many Colombians who are sick and tired of corruption and political games. Santos’s victory on the 20th of June was a disappointment for them but an expected one, so they resigned.

Now Santos, who is supposed to be the heir of present president Álvaro Uribe, assumed his reconciliary attitude, and he also started to appoint some ministers who are not according to what Uribe would have wanted, and that has made many columnists speculate on a distancing between the two.

Now Santos calls for his National Unity and that doesn’t have to be bad. But it makes me feel uneasy as well. If you try to get everybody under your umbrella it looks like you don’t want people to disagree with you. You don’t insult those who disagree but you convince them to join you, rewarding them in some way or another.

Mockus’s Greens already said they don’t want to be in the opposition, they want to be independent. That means they will support proposals they agree with and criticize proposals they disagree with. I wonder what the difference with opposition is, but well, let them find out for themselves.

The most consequent party until now seems to be the leftwing Polo Democrático Alternativo. They are going to perform the part of the – lonely – opposition. The Liberals joined Santos, being tired of playing the opposition part, and Cambio Radical and the Conservatives, who like the Liberals had their own candidate to presidency but had belonged to the Uribe coalition, did the same. They will all be punished in 2014. If Santos will not do a too bad job, he will be reelected. The Liberals for example will have little credibility distancing themselves in a presidencial campaign from a government they have supported for four years.

It is not a shame to belong to the opposition. A decent democracy needs a good and active opposition that keeps an eye on the democratic processes and contributes to good legislation in which everybody’s interests are garanteed. Very necessary in a country like Colombia of which many complain that it is ruled by twenty something very powerful families, of which the Santos are one.

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