Colombia is a presidential republic. The
constitution is based on the principle of power
distribution where three institutions balance each
other: the executive is exercised by the president, the
legislative power is held by Congress and the supreme
judiciary is the Supreme Court.
The president is elected for four years in general
elections and cannot be re-elected. A constitutional
amendment in 2005 allowed for re-election, but the rule
was changed again in 2015. Two presidents were
re-elected during the period allowed: Álvaro Uribe and
Juan Manuel Santos. The president appoints the
government and the country's senior officials. In
addition, they are the supreme commander of the armed
forces and the police.
Total population and chart of Colombia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
Members of Congress are elected in
general elections for a term of four years. The voting
age is 18 years. Police, military and convicted
prisoners may not vote. The congress consists of two
chambers: the House of Representatives
which has 166 elected members and the Senate
which had 102 senators (see below). Bills are being
considered in both chambers and must be approved by both
the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In the Senate, indigenous peoples are guaranteed at
least two seats. In the House of Representatives, five
places are dedicated to minorities: Indigenous peoples,
Afrocolombians and Colombians living abroad. The peace
agreement with Farc concluded in 2016 also guarantees
the former left-wing guerrilla, which has been
transformed into a political party, five seats in both
chambers for two terms in 2018. In addition, the second
in the presidential election automatically gets a seat
in the Senate, and its vice presidential candidate a
seat in the House of Representatives. As of 2018, the
number of members in both chambers is 172 and 108
Colombia is divided into 32 ministries governed by
elected governors and regional parliaments. The
ministries are in turn divided into over a thousand
municipalities. Mayors and members of the municipal
council are also elected in general elections.
Colombia has had civilian rule longer than most other
Latin American countries. In the 20th century, the
country was a military dictatorship for only four years
The two political parties that dominated history, the
Colombian Conservative Party (Partido
Conservador Colombiano, PCC) and the
Colombian Liberal Party (Partido
Liberal Colombiano, PLC), were both
formed in the mid-1800s. Originally, they had different
perceptions about the role of the state and the church.
The Conservatives wanted to strengthen both church and
state, while the Liberals wanted to limit their power.
This difference has become more and more blurred over
the years. The political struggle is now primarily about
the control of the state apparatus, which has
considerable resources at its disposal. The PLC is a
Social Liberal Party, a member of the Socialist
International, while the PCC can be described as a
Christian Democratic Right Party.
Between 1958 and 1974, the two parties split power
according to a special settlement (see Modern History).
When the power-sharing pact came to an end, and when the
new constitution was introduced in 1991, a number of
small parties could enter Congress. Prior to the 2006
election, a two percent barrier was introduced, which
led to many small parties merging into alliances.
No modern politician has a more prominent role in
Colombian politics than Álvaro Uribe. He is immensely
popular in large voter groups, but equally sheltered in
others. Uribe formerly belonged to the Liberals and was
Senator and later Governor of Antioquia. In the 2002
election, Uribe was nominated as an independent
candidate (see Modern History). His main message was
that the left-wing guerrilla Farc must be fought with
violence. Uribe's candidacy, which was supported by the
Liberals rival Conservative Party, among others, caused
a crisis in the Liberal Party.
In 2005, the U Party (Partido de la
U or Partido Social de Unidad Nacional, PSUN)
was formed by members of Congress who wanted Uribe
re-elected. The party that received strong support as
early as 2006 became the largest in Congress in 2010,
thus depriving the Liberals of the dominant position.
Uribe was not allowed to stand for re-election in 2010
but was succeeded in the post by his defense minister,
Juan Manuel Santos.
After the change of power, Uribe and Santos soon
collided. In 2013, Uribe formed the right-wing
Democratic Center (Centro Democrático,
CD), with the aim of challenging Santos and his
government. Uribe is the leader of the CD and his patron
Iván Duque won the presidential election in 2018. At the
same time, CD became the largest party in Congress.
Under the Santos regime, the U party was part of
party alliances with varying participants. V id choice
2018 remained only liberal PLC and Citizen
option (Opción Ciudadana, OC).
The OC was formed under the name Party for National
Integration (PIN) prior to the 2010 parliamentary
elections by relatives of former MPs who were under
investigation for consultation with the paramilitaries.
The party changed its name in the summer of 2013.
Until autumn 2017, the right-wing party
Radical change (Cambio Radical, CR)
was also included in the government. CR was first
included in the government of Uribe and then in Santos
until October 2017, when the party left the government
cooperation. CR's leader Germán Vargas Lleras, who was
Santo's vice president, ran for president in the 2018
election and then came in a distant fourth place.
Alternative Democratic Poland, Polo
(Polo Democrático Alternativo, PDA) was
formed in 2004 through a merger of left-wing parties.
Polo presidential candidate Carlos Gaviria came second
in the 2006 election. The following year, Polo won the
election of Bogotá's mayor, who is considered the second
most important political post in the country.
The Green Alliance (Alianza Verde,
AV) was formed in 2009 when a former
environmental party formed an alliance with several
independent former mayors. It was initially called the
Green Party (Partido Verde, PV) but changed its name in
2013. The party's candidate Antanas Mockus was somewhat
unexpectedly a strong challenger in the 2010
presidential election, but lost to Santos.
Gustavo Petro, a former Polo member, formed the
Colombian Progressive Movement Party
(Movimiento Progresista Colombiano, MPC)
in 2011 and won the mayoral election in Bogotá that same
year. Two years later, he was indicted for neglect of
the city, but was reinstated after several court
appearances (see Calendar). Gustavo Petro was a
candidate in the 2018 presidential election for an
alliance called Colombia Humana. He
lost in the second round against Iván Duque.
The Fargo guerrilla, the Communist Party and other
leftist groups formed the Patriotic Union in
1985 (Unión Patriótica, UP).
It happened as part of the peace talks that were then
held with the Conservative government. The party's
success in the national and local elections in 1986 was
met with violence mainly from right-wing militia, which
killed thousands of its politicians, members and
sympathizers. Three of the victims were presidential
candidates. The UP was dissolved in 2002, but the party
was resurrected in 2013 (see Current policy). Then peace
talks between Farc and the government took place, talks
that culminated in a peace agreement in the fall of
2016. In the following year, Latin America's oldest
armed movement was disarmed under UN supervision and
Farc was transformed into a political party:
Alternative Joint Revolutionary Force (Fuerza
Alternative Revolucionaria del Común, Farc).
The party thus retained the abbreviation Farc, which was
previously read out by Colombia's revolutionary armed
forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia).