Colombian president Alvaro Uribe (photo, from aljazeera.net) won’t seek a third mandate. The country’s constitutional court has rejected a referendum to allow the president to seek re-election after eight years in office.
The referendum has been ruled unconstitutional by the court’s nine magistrates by a margin of 7-2, denying the conservative leader a chance to run for a third consecutive term in May election.
Uribe, who had not confirmed he wanted to run for a third term, accepted the court’s decision on Friday.
“I accept and I respect the decision of the constitutional court,” Uribe told reporters.
The constitutional court’s decision marks the start of a tough campaign among rivals seeking to replace Uribe. After almost eight years in power, the latter became one of the country’s most popular presidents for his US-backed campaign against leftist guerrillas.
Monica Villamizar, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Bogota, said: “The main reasons for the referendum being ruled unconstitutional lay in technicalities. The court also cited irregularities over the referendum’s financing.”
It is unlikely for any successor in Latin America’s fourth largest oil producer to diverge far from the president’s security policies.
When Uribe was not included as a candidate, most opinion polls placed Juan Manuel Santos, a former defence minister, closely associated with Uribe’s security successes against Farc leftist guerrillas, as future president.
Also making ground is Sergio Fajardo, an independent praised for his performance as mayor of the major city of Medellin, while another former defence minister and three-time candidate Noemi Sanin has recently gained in the polls behind him.
During Uribe’s presidency, Latin America’s oldest insurgency has ebbed and foreign investment has flowed steadily into Colombia, a country once considered a byword for a violent, failed state.
A political transition could unnerve the local peso currency and benchmark TES debt markets as investors absorb the change in command. Yet long-term, most analysts see continuity in Colombian stability.
“While a constitutional court rejection may trigger a knee-jerk negative (peso) reaction, this is likely to be transitory as no major shift in economic, regulatory or security policy is expected,” RBC Capital Markets said.