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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06BOGOTA2295 2006-03-14 17:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

URIBE'S ELECTORAL STRENGTH CONFIRMED BY RESULTS OF

Tags:   PGOV PREL ETRD KJUS CO 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 002295 

SIPDIS

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SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2021
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD KJUS CO
SUBJECT: URIBE'S ELECTORAL STRENGTH CONFIRMED BY RESULTS OF
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS AND PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES


Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood, Reasons: 1.4 B & D.



1. (C) Summary: President Uribe handily attained majorities
in both houses of Congress in elections on March 12,
reaffirming his commanding position heading into the
Presidential elections on May 28. Prospects are excellent
for eventual Congressional passage of the FTA and maintaining
continued support for extradition. Horacio Serpa and Carlos
Gaviria won the Liberal and Polo Presidential primaries on
the same day. Parties considered sympathetic to paramilitary
interests attained between 10 and 15 percent of the overall
Senate vote, but some of the key spokespeople were defeated
and the number of seats they will be allocated is minimal.
Turnout on March 12 was similar to 2002 Congressional voting,
around 41 percent, with the exception of a higher percentage
of spoiled ballots on this occasion. Electoral organization
was excellent and security measures strong (septel). End
Summary.

OVERALL NUMBERS


--------------------------





2. (U) Just over 11 million Colombians voted for 102 Senate
and 166 House members on March 12. The new Congress will
take office on July 20, and the next President on August 7.
Voting was largely peaceful and orderly, with only a handful
of reports of disruptions (septel). Turnout -- close to 41
percent -- was similar to 2002 elections. Owing to
complicated new voting procedures, the number of nullified
votes (just over 1 million) far outpaced the number in 2002
(340,000).



3. (SBU) The three leading pro-Uribe parties -- National
Unity (U), Conservatives (PCC), and Radical Change (CR) --
won clear majorities in both houses. The U and the
opposition Liberals (PLC) are poised to hold pluralities in
the Senate and House, respectively. The projected breakdown
by chamber is as follows (we only note the leading five
parties in each case):

SENATE: U - 20, PCC - 18, PLC - 17, CR - 15, Polo - 11
HOUSE: PLC - 33, U - 28, PCC - 27, CR - 21, Polo - 9

Several other pro-Uribe parties won a handful of seats in
each chamber. Uribe should command a majority of between 65
and 70 in the Senate and between 86 and 100 in the House.
The House numbers are more in flux as two small parties,
which will be given 13 seats, might not work as full GOC
allies in an Uribe II Administration.

THE WINNERS


--------------------------





4. (C) President Uribe was the clear victor. Horacio Serpa
won the PLC Presidential primary with 48 percent of the vote
to Rafael Pardo's 24 percent. Two-time (1998 and 2002)
failed Presidential nominee Serpa appears unlikely to
seriously challenge Uribe on May 28. The same holds true for
leftist Senator Carlos Gaviria, who won the Polo nomination
over the more moderate Antonio Navarro Wolff, 53 to 47
percent.



5. (C) Other "winners" included:

--German Vargas Lleras, Head of CR, who attained over 215,000
individual votes for Senate, some 80,000 more than his next
closest rival, the Polo's Gustavo Petro. In addition, CR's
overall Congressional vote total was quite respectable, in
spite of playing a distant second fiddle to the U, President
Uribe's new party.

--Juan Manuel Santos, Head of U, who carried a nascent party
to a surprising victory in the Senate races.

--The Petro wing of the Polo, as Petro was the second highest
individual vote getter (135,000) for Senate and his ally
Gaviria pulled off the upset in the party's Presidential
primary.

THE LOSERS


--------------------------





6. (C) While the Polo will significantly increase its
presence in the Congress (more or less doubling in both
houses), the party has drifted further left and cannot hope
to challenge Uribe on May 28. Despite regular polling
auguring for victory in both houses of Congress, the Liberals
made a disappointing showing in the nation-wide Senate race
(third place overall), but came in first in the more local
and idiosyncratic House. And, as with Gaviria, Serpa does
not appear to have any chance of challenging Uribe for
President. Former Bogota mayors Enrique Penalosa and Antanus
Mockus were also major losers, as both individuals' eponymous
parties failed to reach the vote threshold to attain seats in
the Senate.

CR AND PCC: RELIABLE ALLIES?


--------------------------





7. (C) The PCC will control roughly 18 percent of the Senate
and 16 percent of the House. While the party is publicly
pro-Uribe, it has not supported numerous GOC Congressional
initiatives during the Uribe Administration, particularly on
fiscal issues. Uribe II might continue to face resistance on
related issues. Meanwhile, Uribe and CR leader Vargas Lleras
maintain an often tense relationship, and the latter's
loyalty to Uribe may wane somewhat after May 28. Vargas
Lleras clearly has his sights on the Presidency in 2010 and
may attempt to move more into his own limelight.

PARAMILITARY ISSUES


--------------------------





8. (C) We will continue to study and report on the
complicated issue of how the voting numbers reveal the
electoral strength of the paramilitaries. Four parties often
associated with paramilitary interests -- Citizen
Convergence, Colombia Alive, Democratic Colombia, and Let
Moreno Play -- attained on the order of 1.2 million Senate
votes. Four of the five sitting members of Congress expelled
from the U and CR parties in January attained seats in
Congress. However, the three most publicly pro-paramilitary
members of Congress -- Carlos Moreno de Caro, Rocio Arias,
and Eleonora Pineda -- lost their seats.

U.S. INTERESTS


--------------------------





9. (C) An Uribe II Administration will count on the
necessary majorities to pass the FTA in Congress, in spite of
considerable public skepticism. In a similar vein, with
Uribe and the leading pro-Uribe parties publicly advocating
the importance of the U.S. extradition relationship, we
foresee little danger of modification of the Constitution to
prohibit extradition, something members of Congress
sympathetic to the paramilitaries have occasionally
threatened.

WOOD