Peace is on the Ballot: The Politicization of the Colombian Peace Talks

John P. Hayes


On October 2nd 2016, Colombian voters rejected a referendum on the peace agreement between the federal government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Contrary to most advance polling and preliminary estimates in national and international news media, the “No” vote won by a tight margin, thus rejecting a peace deal that would have brought an end to the longest civil war in the Western hemisphere. This paper examines the intersections of civil society and the political groups most actively involved in the peace process in Colombia, beginning in the 1980s and leading to the 2016 referendum. The findings are two-fold: first, civil society has played an integral role in both the endurance and the hindrance of the peace process from its beginnings in 1980s up to the present day, through electoral support of independent candidates and by mobilization of special interest groups. Second, the 2016 referendum results share exceptional demographic and geographic correlations with the results of the 2014 presidential election. This suggests the peace referendum was highly politicized and split along the lines of partisanship at the highest echelons of Colombian democracy.  


Colombia; FARC; Peace; Civil War; Civil Society; Polarization

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