NewsLatin AmericaClosed lists and congressmen who can be ministers: this is how political reform is going

Closed lists and congressmen who can be ministers: this is how political reform is going

Debate on the Political Reform in the House of Representatives, in Bogota, on December 13, 2022.House of Representatives

This Tuesday the House of Representatives approved the political reform, one of the most important of the Government of Gustavo Petro. As it is a constitutional reform, despite the fact that it has already been approved in committees and plenary sessions of the House and the Senate, it should go through another round of approvals, but with what has been achieved since July and the votes it went through, it is most likely that become a reality in June, after several unsuccessful attempts in the last decade.

The debate in the Chamber recalls that the reform is not without controversy. For example, it revived an article that removes powers from the Attorney General’s Office to sanction and dismiss officials elected by popular vote, such as mayors and governors. The government project proposes that only judges can sanction them and not the Attorney General’s Office, the entity in charge of disciplining public officials. Precisely among those who have dismissed this Petro, when he was mayor of Bogota. The article that was approved in the Chamber is in line with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which sided with Petro in his case against the Colombian State. That Court pointed out that the Attorney General’s Office had violated the political rights of the current president and that his powers to “remove and disable publicly elected officials” should be eliminated, since that power should remain only in the hands of judges.

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Another of the points approved by the Chamber will allow congressmen to resign from that position to be ministers, an idea that the current president of the Senate, Roy Barreras, has unsuccessfully supported in previous projects. The approval of this article, which eliminates the one-year disqualification that currently exists for them to enter the Government, was given with 108 votes against 50 in the plenary session of the Chamber. Congresswoman Jenifer Pedraza, from the Dignity party, said that this “revolving door” so that congressmen can be ministers is “a bombshell against the division of powers.” “What political control will there be?” She asked herself in plenary.

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In contrast, another of the articles of the reform that sought the entry of younger people to Congress fell, lowering the minimum age necessary to be a senator from 30 to 25 years, and from 25 to 18 years for the Chamber. For the Government, this point was a commitment to the youth, a sector that led them to win the elections.

The political reform has also tested the government coalition. In the Plenary, the article that modifies article 262 of the Political Constitution was also approved to create “closed lists, blocked and with alternation between men and women” as of 2026 both in Congress and in local and regional popular election instances .

The Minister of the Interior, Alfonso Prada, insisted that its objective is to “strengthen and deepen democracy by eliminating traditional practices and expanding the participation of young people and women.” But representatives who support Petro attacked him. For example, the green Katherine Miranda said that the political reform passed a “red line of the Constitution” and will lead to large parties being able to build coalitions, eliminating minorities. “I was part of Gustavo Petro’s debate leadership during the campaign and I am ashamed and deeply disappointed and it hurts me that in this government they are killing minorities”, she said visibly upset during the plenary session.

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The reform will begin its second round by Congress, with another four debates, in March 2023. Prada admitted that there is “a lot of criticism” and invited congressmen to work together to improve the text. “Those who want to comment with the Government, hopefully they can join us. We are going to come in March recharged to carry out the political reform”, added Prada and said that there will be “no type of censorship” against those who are part of the coalition and criticized the project.

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