The Domestic Tests Facing Colombia’s President Ivan Duque

Ivan Duque celebrates his victory in the presidential runoff election, Bogota, Colombia, June 17, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).
Ivan Duque celebrates his victory in the presidential runoff election, Bogota, Colombia, June 17, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).
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Colombia’s new president, Ivan Duque, has set his sights on the challenge of reuniting a divided country. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

It came as no surprise in June when Colombians delivered a strong victory to Ivan Duque, the conservative candidate that the polls had predicted would win the country’s presidential election. That the outcome was largely expected in no way diminishes the historic significance of the election, and it does nothing to ease the complexity of the challenge facing the man some are calling Colombia’s Emmanuel Macron, a young, little-known figure who rose from relative obscurity, vowing to bring change.

The comparison to the French president is overdone, but Duque faces similarly high expectations. On the economic front, the center-right Duque, who worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington before entering Colombian politics as a senator in 2014, will not bring a radical transformation, except to make Colombia’s already market-friendly policies even more so. But that doesn’t mean that he will take the rudder and stay the course. If he does, he will have failed.

Duque, who rose to victory on the shoulders of former President Alvaro Uribe, the leading critic of Colombia’s peace deal with the FARC insurgency, now faces a slew of challenges, beginning with his promise to tackle the agreement that he, like so many Colombians, viewed as intolerably flawed. But if dealing with the peace agreement is the most prominent item, it is only one on Duque’s agenda. An item written in invisible ink is his need to walk out of the shadow of Uribe, who some in Colombia believe could become the real power behind Duque, leading to another international analogy: Duque as the Dmitry Medvedev to Uribe’s Vladimir Putin. It is an image Duque needs to erase.

Can Ivan Duque meet the expectations set for him as Colombia’s new president? Learn more, in Is Colombia’s Duque Another Macron, or Another Medvedev? for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

The FARC Peace Deal: Details In The Agreement Have Some Colombians Up In Arms

Colombia’s new president, Ivan Duque, campaigned on a promise to toughen the landmark peace accord with the former FARC guerrillas. Yet Duque, who is ardently opposed to a peace deal that he considers too soft on the FARC, pledged in his victory speech after the election to bring the country together after a polarizing and bitter campaign. “Peace is something all Colombians yearn for, and peace means that we turn the page on the fissures that have divided us,” he told cheering crowds at his celebration rally in Bogota. Throughout the campaign, Duque said he would aim to rewrite parts of the peace agreement to impose more punitive measures on ex-FARC leaders. Duque has described the transitional justice system created by the peace accords as “a monument to impunity” and proposed four major alterations to the deal. But there are legal limitations to what he can actually achieve.

Colombia’s new president doesn’t like the FARC peace deal details, but will he be able to reshape the agreement? To find out, read Colombia’s New Conservative President Sets His Sights on the FARC Peace Deal for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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The Economic Legacy of Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

Duque’s predecessor, former President Juan Manuel Santos, will be most remembered for signing and pushing through the FARC peace deal. But he also left behind an impressive record of accomplishments on the economic front, including reining in inflation, reducing unemployment and the size of the informal market, overseeing the steady growth of Colombia’s GDP, and lifting 5.4 million Colombians out of poverty—all while managing a crisis over the global price of oil that caused neighboring Venezuela to implode. Duque will hardly be ignoring Santos’ economic legacy, since he’ll reap the benefits. He not only inherits a statistically stronger economy, but a nation reshaping its international image and making up years of lost ground on its economically strapped neighbors. During his campaign for the presidency, Duque painted Santos as an economic populist who spent wastefully on a bureaucracy-heavy peace process with the FARC. But in reality, Santos’ economic management was conservative, and Duque’s economic team can be expected to continue with the vision championed by both Santos and Alvaro Uribe, Duque’s political mentor.

Despite a strong economy, Colombia’s President Ivan Duque will need to pursue his political vision with caution. Learn more, in Will Duque Maintain Santos’ Other Legacy in Colombia–the Economic Recovery? for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

Duque’s ‘Extreme Centrism’ Could Be a Test Case at a Time of Polarization

In November, Colombia’s young president, Ivan Duque, passed his 100-day mark in office, and the results so far show that a deeply divided country, after decades of war with guerrilla groups, will remain tough to govern as a fragile peace struggles to take hold. In the years to come, the 42-year-old Duque is sure to face headwinds made even worse by the polarization resulting from years of bitter conflict. Duque’s approval ratings have collapsed during a period when a new presidency often benefits from open-minded optimism, with one poll recording an approval rating of just 27 percent in November, down from 54 percent in September. Duque, who campaigned as a man of the “extreme center,” is quickly becoming a test case for the viability of the political center during a time of polarization, when extreme positions satisfy one side and enrage the other—and middle-of-the-road approaches have the potential to disappoint everyone.

Approval ratings for Colombia’s President Ivan Duque have collapsed since his early honeymoon period. Find out more, in Colombia’s Duque Tests the Political Center, Angering Everyone for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

Learn more about Colombian President Ivan Duque and the challenges he faces with the economy, the unpopular FARC peace deal, Colombia’s other internal divides and so much more in the searchable library of World Politics Review (WPR):

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Editor’s Note: This article was first published in November 2018 and is regularly updated.

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