Colombian Political Parties and Electoral Behavior During the Post-National Front Period
During most of the present century, formal democracy has prevailed in Colombia, and scholars have generated a prolific set of concepts to characterize that political system: (1) a liberal democracy that is restricted, controlled, limited, oligarchical, elitist, pluralist, consociational; (2) an inclusionary authoritarian regime, and (3) a bourgeois democracy resting on a capitalist base. 1 This conceptual maze, resulting from scholarly efforts to understand Colombian politics, has tended to confuse the two basic conceptualizations of democracy: the formal and the substantive. 2 The Colombian model fulfills the requirements of the formal definition with some caveats: a few elections before the National Front that were boycotted by one of the major parties, the military government of General Rojas Pinilla (from 1953 to 1957), the National Front Coalition (from 1958 to 1974), and perhaps electoral fraud ( 1970). However, since the expiration of the electoral restrictions associated with the National Front in 1974, the only deviation from the formal model, possibly excepting some restrictions on civil liberties, revolves around the status of the opposition party. According to Article 120 of the Constitution, the president shall appoint public officials in such a manner as to give "adequate and equitable" representation to the major party not controlling the presidency. After the termination of the National Front, the sharing of governmental posts between the two traditional parties, Liberal and Conservative, continued during the governments of Presidents Turbay and Betancur, thereby raising some questions about the existence of a true opposition party. But a return to a more competitive party system did occur in 1986 when the Conservative party refused to participate in the Liberal government of President Barco, who had
This chapter is a revised and abbreviated version of a paper presented at the XII International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 18-20, 1985.