Things changed in 2002 when Colombian voters rejected the ruling center-right Conservative in exchange for the independent, center-left Liberal Alvaro Uribe. Uribe combined the Liberal Party's platform of social democracy and government-supported welfare, the Conservative Party's desire for free trade, and his own desire to crush the various insurgent groups. He increased Colombian participation in Plan Colombia, aggressively sought to deny FARC territory, and offered demilitarization plans to various groups including the AUC. There have been a combination of amnesties for foot soldiers and criminal trials for terrorist leaders because of the demilitarization programs. Meanwhile the war against Communist, narco, and counterrevolutionary rebels has scored great victories as the various insurgent leaderships have been culled and national authority is once again returning to the country side.
Their was a potential blight on the march to peace and democracy though. President Uribe took a page out of the Hugo Chavez playbook by trying to start the process to end term limits to allow himself to be reelected for a third term. The supreme court rejected these measures and a potential showdown loomed. Fortunately President Uribe is following the court's ruling by announcing he will not seek another reelection and will step down at the end of his term.
The political landscape has changed as well in the last ten years. The long standing divide between Conservative and Liberal parties has been more or less annihilated by Uribe. He managed to form of an alliance of Conservatives, centrist Liberals, and members of the center-left Radical Change party. His newish party, the Social National Unity Party, now competes against the Alternative Democratic Pole which is itself an alliance of a range of groups from anti-Uribe centrists to pro-FARC communist Liberals. Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe's former Defense Minister, of the Social National Unity Party is easily leading in the polls. The big question this election is whether or not Uribe's coalition will hold or if the parties will each run their own candidate in the first round of the election. Some business even worry that a deeply divided left-right coalition will lead to an leftist electoral victory. The possibility of this happening is small because to win one needs fifty percent of the vote and Uribe's policies are popular in Colombia. While the political chaos is worrying some it is good to see democracy is alive and well in Colombia.