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Politics of Colombia

Constitutional Reforms

Colombia's present constitution, enacted on July 4, 1991, strengthened the administration of justice with the provision for introduction of an accusatorial system which ultimately is to replace entirely the existing Napoleonic Code. Other significant reforms under the new constitution provide for civil divorce, dual nationality, the election of a vice president, and the election of departmental governors. The constitution expanded citizens' basic rights, including that of "tutela," under which an immediate court action can be requested by an individual if he or she feels that their constitutional rights are being violated and if there is no other legal recourse.

The national government has separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president is elected for a 4-year term and cannot be re-elected. The 1991 constitution reestablished the position of vice president, who is elected on the same ticket as the president. By law, the vice president will succeed in the event of the president's resignation, illness, or death.

Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate and a 161-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multimember districts co-located within the 32 national departments. The country's capital is a separate capital district and elects its own representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely, and, in contrast to the previous system, there are no alternate congressmen. Congress meets twice a year, and the president has the power to call it into special session when needed.

The civilian judiciary is a separate and independent branch of government. Guidelines and the general structure for Colombia's administration of justice are set out in Law 270 of March 7, 1996. Colombia's legal system has recently begun to incorporate some elements of an oral, accusatorial system. The judicial branch's general structure is composed of four distinct jurisdictions (civilian, administrative, constitutional, and special). Colombia's highest judicial organs include the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court, and the Superior Judicial Council. This sometimes leads to conflicting opinions since there is no one court which clearly has authority over the decisions of the other three.

Principal Government Official

President :Álvaro Uribe Vélez, succeeding Andres Pastrana Arango

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Colombia
conventional short form: Colombia
local long form: Republica de Colombia
local short form: Colombia

Data code: CO

Government type: republic; executive branch dominates government structure

Capital: Bogota

Administrative divisions: 32 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 1 capital district* (distrito capital), see Departments of Colombia

Independence: 20 July 1810 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, July 20 (1810)

Constitution: July 5 1991

Legal system: based on Spanish law; a new criminal code modeled after US procedures was enacted in 1992-93; judicial review of executive and legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Alvaro Uribe Velez (since August 7, 2002); Vice-President Francisco Santos Calderón; note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government. see also: List of Presidents of Colombia
cabinet: Cabinet
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held on May 26, 2002 (next elections in 2006); vice president elected by popular vote for a four-year term in a new procedure that replaces the traditional designation of vice presidents by newly elected presidents;
election results: Uribe won a victory in the first round of voting, securing 53% of the vote. His main challenger, Horacio Serpa, won 31.7% of the vote.

Legislative branch: Bicameral Congress or Congreso consists of the Senate or Senado (102 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Camara de Representantes (163 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held NA March 1998 (next to be held NA March 2002); House of Representatives - last held NA March 1998 (next to be held NA March 2002)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - PL 50%, PSC 24%, smaller parties (many aligned with conservatives) 26%; seats by party - PL 58, PSC 28, smaller parties 16; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - PL 52%, PSC 17%, other 31%; seats by party - PL 98, PSC 52, indigenous parties 2, others 11

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justical, highest court of criminal law, judges are selected from the nominees of the Higher Council of Justice for eight-year terms; Council of State, highest court of administrative law, judges are selected from the nominees of the Higher Council of Justice for eight-year terms; Constitutional Court, guards integrity and supremacy of the constitution, rules on constitutionality of laws, amendments to the constitution, and international treaties

Political parties and leaders: Democratic Alliance-April 19 Movement or AD/M-19 is a coalition of small leftist parties and dissident liberals and conservatives [Carlos Franco ECHAVARRIA, Antonio NAVARRO Wolff, Otty PATINO, Carlos Alonso LUCIO]; Liberal Party or PL [Jose Fernando BAUTISTA]; New Democratic Force or NDF [leader NA]; Patriotic Union or UP is a legal political party formed by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC and Colombian Communist Party or PCC [Aida ABELLA]; Social Conservative Party or PSC [Dr. Eugenio MERLANO de la Ossa]

Political pressure groups and leaders: two largest insurgent groups active in Colombia - National Liberation Army or ELN; and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC

International organization participation: BCIE, CAN, Caricom (observer), CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G- 3, G-11, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Flag description: three horizontal bands of yellow (top, double-width), blue, and red; similar to the flag of Ecuador, which is longer and bears the Ecuadorian coat of arms superimposed in the center

See also : Colombia