Colombia’s upcoming counter-honeymoon election and coalition presidential primaries

Colombia will have its congressional elections in March, followed by the first round of the presidential election in May. A story in El Tiempo (in Spanish) correctly notes that the congressional election will be critical for helping simplify the currently large field of candidates for the presidency:

Las elecciones para Congreso, del 11 de marzo, pueden ser claves en lo que tiene que ver con la campaña a la presidencia.

Loosely translated, the 11 March elections for Congress can be key to the presidential campaign.

I define a counter-honeymoon election as one late in the president’s term. The time within a term is a continuous variable, which can be scored as 0 when it is concurrent (same time as the president) and approaching 1.0 the closer it is to the next presidential election. This is how Taagepera and I define “term time” in Votes from Seats (2017). There’s no hard cutoff at which the election enters the category, counter-honeymoon, but 0.75 is a good approximation.

Colombia’s congressional elections come at at term time greater than 0.9, and thus are among the best examples of the phenomenon. And the term lengths for president and congress are the same (4 years) so, with rare exceptions, Colombia has only counter-honeymoon elections, unlike some countries that have a mix of different elapsed times at which elections can occur, due to different term lengths or provisions allowing dissolution.

In addition to the congressional elections, Colombia holds presidential primaries (consultas) also on the same date in March. Primaries are not required, but several parties use them. This time there are also pre-election coalitions of parties that are using primaries to decide on a joint candidacy for the first round. So, obviously these will affect the congressional elections–but also vice versa. Some of the parties entering such coalitions are stronger in some regions than in others, and will use their party organizations not only for the legislative elections but also to try to push their preferred candidate in the primary.

Chile has had coalitional presidential primaries (for the Concertación) and Colombia has had party presidential primaries concurrent with assembly elections. But I think this upcoming election season in Colombia might be the first time anywhere that coalitional primaries and assembly elections have been concurrent.

(Thanks to Steven Taylor, off-blog, for calling my attention to the article, and for thoughts on the coalitional presidential primaries.)


3 thoughts on “Colombia’s upcoming counter-honeymoon election and coalition presidential primaries

  1. A full paragraph in the article, about the congressional elections, is worth quoting:

    “Esas elecciones van a medir la realidad de los apoyos con los que cuentan los candidatos en las regiones. Y las maquinarias y apoyos regionales mostrarán realmente cuál es la base que se tiene para estar en una segunda vuelta”, dijo Víctor Manuel Muñoz, analista de opinión de la encuestadora Guarumo.Si un partido se ‘quema’, su candidato presidencial se afectará, y por el contrario, si saca una gran votación, le servirá de impulso al aspirante que apoye.”

  2. I thought there was some flexibility for the parties in terms of holding primaries. In particular, I thought the Liberal Party had already held presidential primaries.

    Do you also know what the requirements are for voters in these presidential primaries? Is it open-can voters vote in their choice of primary, or in multiple primaries-or are there registration requirements?

    • Primaries are held at the option of a party (or, as we see examples of this time, a coalition). The Liberal Party has had several of them since 1990, and the Polo Democrático and other parties have had them occasionally.

      They are completely open in the sense that there is no party registration of voters, and so anyone showing up to vote in the congressional election can select a “pre-candidate” from any party (or coalition) that is holding one. And the winner would be determined by plurality of votes cast nationwide in the particular primary.

      In the first Liberal presidential primary of 1990 there was a complex regional weighting procedure, by which the party attempted to dilute votes from outside the party and in urban areas. I have an explanation of it in a newspaper article of the time, and would not even presume to summarize it. As far as I know, no subsequent primary has been anything other than open, direct plurality.

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