The possible reelection in 2014 of the president Juan Manuel Santos is now on the agenda. At a Unidad Nacional (the coalition of parties supporting Santos) forum, organized by the Presidency, the Liberal Party leader, Rafael Pardo, said that "after the October elections, the coalition parties should
start talking about the reelection". Days later, the also liberal and President of the House of Representatives, Simon Gaviria, said: "We would be happy to support Santos in his reelection". That means a green light for the second candidacy of the current president.
The government of Juan Manuel Santos has just celebrated its first year and is barely consolidating its political program. It has not even finished creating the ministries of Labour and Environment and the last member of Unidad Nacional, the Partido Verde, had just entered. Discussing about the possible reelection at this time means throwing a bomb to the climate of unity and to the government's agenda.
Eight years ago at the same point of the former president Álvaro Uribe government, the idea had not even been raised. The Colombian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Noemi Sanin, proposed it on January 22 of 2004, after a meeting with her boss, who had been in power for 17 months, four more than Juan Manuel Santos now. But at this moment, the immediate reelection was forbidden and Uribe was forced to reform the Constitution, to make it possible it required nearly two years. This is not the case nowadays. With the change of the article in 2006, Colombia was left with a system similar to the United States: the presidents can be reelected one time. The rules are clear and everyone knows that Santos, if he wants, can be candidate in 2014.
Until then, anything can happen. The president's image is very positive, above 70 percent in all the polls, but it has to be seen if his popularity is just a honeymoon or if it’s durable. One thing is to make announcements and set agenda, which is what Santos has focused so far, and quite another one is to implement them, moving from words to facts. The strength or weakness of Juan Manuel Santos in 2014 will depend on achieving concrete results of its ambitious agenda.
It’s curious that a untimely and opportunist proposal has been raised by Rafael Pardo and Simon Gaviria, two people considered thoughtful and cautious. Although the Liberal Party is part of Unidad Nacional and exerts its membership with evident enthusiasm, both are last minute Santistas. Both Rafael Pardo and Simon's father, former President Cesar Gaviria, were the most tenacious opponents of Santos until his election. Putting aside these grievances is undoubtedly convenient, but to dispute the position of the first reelection cheerleaders, is a bit disproportionate.
What does the liberalism is looking for by putting the reelection issue forward? One hypothesis is that they want to reunify their party, putting Juan Manuel Santos at the point of convergence of their former factions, the parties of La U and Cambio Radical, which today are dispersed. It remains to be seen whether the president is interested with this game. With Unidad Nacional, he now has the enthusiastic backing of all political forces, with the exception of Polo Democrático Alternativo, the Left Party opposition. Aligned with one of these members of his coalition might upset others, and if something Juan Manuel Santos has shown, is that he likes to add and not to subtract.
And that strategy is the one that makes possible that he will be reelected. However, it is too premature at this time to talk about reelection. After the controversial reelection of Uribe, it is important not to improvise or perform unnecessary gestures. Once the reelection had been institutionalized, this process doesn’t require so much anticipation and opportunism. It must simply be a vote of approval and confidence after a successful management, which can never be measured in the first year of a government.