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Sovereign vote against: everything to learn from the elections in Colombia and France

When the vote is transformed into a throwing stone, it usually damages the one who throws it even more. It happens when you are elected at the polls with a frustration whip against the toxic nature of the landscape, with an inevitable difficulty in measuring the consequences.

But before raising the critical finger, it should be noted that this behavior has objective reasons. The vote against has become widespread on the horse of significant crises high social harm like the one that broke out in 2008/09 and that, without having been resolved, was chained with the costs of the pandemic and now with the consequences of the Russian war on Ukraine.

The synthesis of this panorama is a piling up of excluded people on the shoulders of the distribution, victims of an income that has been concentrating without pause. There is no collective guilt. They rightly repudiate a system that excludes them.

Politics, politicians play with that swamp, communicating what the tormented bases want to hear. It is a resource to achieve power. It is no coincidence that demagoguery and populism from the right or from the left constitute a common sense of this time in the North and the South of the world.l.

The legislative elections in France, and the presidential elections in Colombia, both this Sunday, expose powerful examples of these distortions.

In the European power, it is seen with the growth of the extreme right of Marinne Le Pen, who lost last May but made the best election in its history also driven by the widespread reproach to the high cost of living and the shortages that the country suffers.

The profiles

But, especially, due to the consolidation of a figure that intends to become a differentiating alternative, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former member of the Socialist Party, a force that abandoned in rejection of the centrism of François Mitterrand and chose in the populist reason one way more calculating, successful and productive.

Those positions, so familiar to our lands, were highlighted by the candidate after the first legislative round last Sunday, maintaining that he had won, when he had lost, albeit by a tiny difference, but questioning the official information, the press that communicated it and the State itself that audited.

That is, to all that otherness against which the “good ones” they fight even when they are in the majority.

In colombia, the most socially unbalanced country in the region Only surpassed by Brazil, according to data from the World Bank, a grotesque figure burst into the race for government, businessman Rodolfo Hernández, whose main use has been to highlight the decline of politics in that nation.

This character confronts Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla fighter who applauded the peace plan of former center-right president Juan Manuel Santos, who defines himself as pro-market and a defender of capitalism (interview with The EconomistMay 28) but who is characterized as a leftist.

Interesting fact in political and sociological terms of a overwhelming role confusion which is becoming more and more frequent on these beaches and the rest of the world.

The candidates. AFP

But the peculiarity in this election is not only the ideological entanglement that has been built around Petro, and that possibly he himself has fostered (it happens the same with Lula da Silva or Gabriel Boric), but the figure of his opponent.

Hernández is a politically improvised and far-right millionaire who came to the ballotage as a reaction of fury against the system, fueling an alternative for the traditional right bitterly opposed to Petro.

Colombia comes from a succession of failures that can be seen in widespread poverty that affects 20 million people, 39.3% of the population. That indicator added another 3.5 million during the pandemic, a chasm that is historic.

The context adds other sufferings: armed groups that profit from drug trafficking thriving on the borders with Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. And a brutal violence that last year registered the highest homicide rate since 2014, with 28 murders per 100 thousand inhabitants.

That background explains the collapse of those historical rights and the rise of spectral characters like Hernández. Compared to Donald Trump or the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, who have been the result of these same circumstances, this leader can also perfectly go hand in hand with the European ultras defined by the anti-systems catchphrase.


It is a spreading problem. It is no coincidence that Javier Milei is in Bogotá to support him. Hernández has avoided debates or reporting on his government plan. He only makes caravans, he talks about fighting corruption, a crime of which you have been accused, and he has come to claim himself in 2016, as a “follower of that great thinker called Adolf Hitler”.

It is not clear if that comment was an expression of ignorance, a revelation of his own critical limitation and intellectual desert, or if he is really an admirer of that extreme fascist. Or all of that together.

An additional fact, which in some sense also brings the two scenarios closer, is abstention. In France, where the traditional parties also collapsedless than half of the voters voted: 53% did not participate.

In Colombia, in the first round, the level of absenteeism was a little less, 47%, but notice a lurid detail: even so, with that huge dropout, it was the biggest turnout in 20 years.

As the former Uruguayan president Julio María Sanguinetti teaches, it is there, in the “no answer”, where you always have to see in the polls.

French populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  AFP Photo

French populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. AFP Photo

Mélenchon, who improbably snatches the legislative majority from Emmanuel Macron, although anything can happen, plays the same willing party as the Colombian millionaire, but in his case with a more convenient left key. He also proves that ideology in these liquid times easily becomes a mere frivolity.

Strong imitator of Spanish Can, With whom he shares the admiration for Chavismo and the readings of Laclau, he is part of a legion of “progressives” who consolidate themselves by basking in issues of race, gender or identity, with which they acquire greater social influence.

From that position, they end up covering up a classic and inefficient conservative turn, as happens in our region with the local branches of that lodge.

Macron is seeking an absolute majority to guarantee a program that includes tax cuts and raises the retirement age from 62 to 65. Contrary to what Mélenchon proposes, prone to increases in taxes despite the rise in the cost of living, and crowning retirement at 60 years.

The polls anticipate that the ruling party will experience a sharp drop in seats compared to the harvest of five years ago, when it obtained 361 seats. But the forecast clarifies that Macron in the worst scenario would collect 255 seats and in the best, 300. You need 289 seats to govern without alliances.

Mélenchon’s NUPES alliance, with remnants of socialism, classical Stalinism and ecological groups, would number just over 200.

In Colombia things are also very tight. Petro, who gathered 40.3% of the vote in the first round, has a slight chance of winning this Sunday, just as slightly as Hernández.

Emmanuel Macron, during the visit to kyiv.  EFE

Emmanuel Macron, during the visit to kyiv. EFE

The far-right, who achieved 28% last Sunday, adds the Uribismo vote (23.9%) of the candidate Federico Gutiérrez, continuation of the outgoing president Iván Duque. But, in addition, that of many undecided who fear the former guerrilla.

The word left that they attribute to him in Colombia has a connotation of serious discomfort due to the legacy of barbarism of the FARC and the ELN and the disruptive proximity of the Chavista experiment. That is why they campaign with that nickname. Nay. Since there is no favor.
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