From Rural to Urban Society: The Transformation of Colombian Democracy
Harvey F. Kline
Colombia has long been considered one of the few Latin American democracies. In a certain sense that categorization is correct, as elections leading to civilian presidents have been the modal pattern of political recruitment. The military has been in power only from 1953 to 1958 in this century, surely less frequently than in most other countries of the region. Yet, on another level the conclusion that the country is a "democracy" 1 is too general, and as such it ignores important historical variations in partisan elite methods of mobilizing voters.
In this chapter I argue that Colombia has gone through three consecutive (save the military hiatus) and related electoral regimes: "sectarian democracy" (late nineteenth century through 1953); "consociational democracy" (from 1958 to 1974); and "democracy" (from 1974 to the present). I show that three forms of mobilizing voters have been common: (1) party members' hatred of the other party, or "sectarismo"; (2) direct "machine-oriented" payoffs, or "clientelismo"; and (3) programmatic appeals. Although the first two methods correspond especially to the first two periods respectively, and the third has been most notable during the third period, I show that all three methods have existed in each of the three periods.
The chapter is organized into two parts. In the first, I describe the first two historical periods, discussing the partisan dynamics and societal changes that led to alterations of the electoral regimes. In the second, I describe the current period of democracy, exploring the new programmatic mobilization through an analysis of the campaign statements of the Liberal and Conservative presidential candidates in the first three elections of this period.