Challenges of Political Participation in a Peacebuilding Era. A Comparative Review between Colombia and Guatemala

Miss Natalia Colmenares Rincon
Miss Erika Ortiz Pedraza

Guatemala and Colombia share historical elements about the origin and the length of their armed conflicts: The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG, 1982) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP, 1964) justified their military actions in facts such as the land concentration, the social inequality, the concentration of political power; the lack of redistributive policies and the State inability to solve social problems. Those elements let us an approach to the social, political and economic fractures in which derived those internal wars, according to Emilio Polo (2017), and where the issue of political participation was and is essential, because of high abstention rates in these Latin American countries.

The similarities between both cases invite us to analysis, how have been the processes and dynamics of political participation. In Guatemala, the Government and the MR13 signed two agreements about democratization (July/1991) and “Constitutional reforms and the Electoral Regime" (December/1996). In Colombia, the Government and FARC signed a General Agreement, where Political Participation occupies the second chapter. The Final Agreement created a Special Electoral Mission to analyze the Colombia's Political and Electoral System, and where political experts have recommended “combat abstention, apathy, distrust of citizens in elections, parties and politicians” (MEE, 2017, p. 67).

This paper proposes two questions: What are the challenges for political participation that facing emerging democracies after peace processes? and How to take advantage of similar situations to consolidate a strong and a democratic political system in a peacebuilding Era? For this, we are going to analyze: 1) Historical causes of war in Guatemala and Colombia, and the political participation agreements. Later, we are going to review the political reforms and the electoral results after peace process —Guatemala (1996-2016) and Colombia (2018)—, and finally, we are going to consider some observations based on the learning of the Guatemalan case for the Colombian context.