Colombia Government and Politics

State and politics

Colombia Country Flag

Reference: Colombia Flag Meaning


Colombia’s current constitution was adopted in 1991 and defines the country as a social rule of law in the form of a republic. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of CO and its meanings of Colombia. The president, who is both head of state and government as well as supreme commander of the armed forces and the police, is elected by a simple majority for a four-year term, with the possibility of direct re-election according to a constitutional supplement 2004. Parliament consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

The Senate has 108 members and the Chamber of Deputies 172, of which five seats in both chambers are reserved for the FARC, two seats in the Senate are reserved for the indigenous population while five seats in the Chamber of Deputies are reserved for Afro-Colombians, Indigenous people, and Colombians residing abroad. The members are elected for terms of office of four years and the election system is based on a proportional distribution of seats. Everyone who has turned 18 can vote to vote, but police, military and convicted prisoners must not vote.

According to, Colombia is divided into 32 regional ministries governed by elected governors and local 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’s political life has historically been dominated by two parties: the Conservative Partido Conservador (PC) and the Liberal Partido Liberal (PL). The parties were formed in the middle of the nineteenth century and have countless times clashed in bloody feuds. After the “la violencia” period (1948–57), the parties agreed to form the Frente Nacional (National Front) with a view to changing the presidential post for 16 years and at the same time sharing the responsibility of government. In practice, the pact continued even after 1974 and was not broken until 1986, when the Liberals took full government responsibility.

Both parties are firmly anchored in the Colombian power elite. The Conservative Party has traditionally been more centralist with strong attachment to the countryside while the Liberals have a more urban and federalist profile. However, the ideological differences have sometimes been small and in recent years more and more leveled.

In effect, the national front was a monopoly of power that shut out other parties, and this, combined with a violent persecution of left-wing politicians, led to the formation of several guerrilla movements, the largest being Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Movimiento 19 de Abril (M- 19), Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and Ejército Popular de Liberación(EPL). When a new constitution was adopted in 1991, most groups dropped their weapons while FARC and ELN continued an armed struggle. After several years of negotiations, an agreement was signed between the state and FARC in 2016 whereby the guerrillas laid down their weapons and were transformed into a political party. Negotiations with the last remaining guerrilla group ELN were ongoing in 2018.

The traditional parties’ power monopoly was broken in the early 2000s and several smaller parties have since emerged. Left parties have also had the opportunity to operate and, among other things, ruled the capital Bogotá. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the right-wing party Centro Democrático, led by former president Alvaro Uribe (born 1952), received the most votes in both chambers, but neither party received a majority in parliament. The FARC, which for the first time ran in Democratic elections after the peace agreement in 2016 and 2017, was transformed into a political party, received approximately 50,000 votes. They thus reached no place beyond the five as guaranteed by the agreement. Turnout increased from 44 to 47 percent.

In the 2018 presidential election, right-wing candidate Iván Duque won the decisive second round with 54 percent of the vote against leftist Alliance Gustavo Petros (born 1960) 42 percent. Ivan Duque made a choice on promises of economic reform as well as a modification of the signed peace agreement with FARC. Duque’s main criticism of the peace agreement is about the conditions for the guerrilla leadership, which he believes should be punished more harshly. Marta Lucía Ramírez (born 1954) was nominated as Vice President, thus becoming the country’s first woman to hold the post.

The extensive drug handling in the country has greatly affected political life through both corruption and violence directed at the country’s politicians. See also History.


The country is divided into judicial districts with a higher court and various courts of first instance. The Bogotá Supreme Court consists of a civil, criminal and labor law chamber. In addition to the general courts, Colombia has a constitutional court and special administrative, labor and youth courts.

The legal order is of a continental European type. The most important codifications are the civil law (which is based on Chile’s civil law), the trade law, the penal code, the labor law and the civil process law. The death penalty was abolished in 1910; the last execution took place in 1909.

Human Rights

As a result of the armed conflict that has been going on in Colombia since the 1960s (see History), a number of serious violations of human rights have been committed. More than 5 million Colombians are fleeing within the country’s borders and a large number of people are still forced to flee their homes every year. This has generated the world’s second largest population of internally displaced persons.

The most common causes of people fleeing are the risk of threats and violence from guerrilla groups FARC and ELN as well as members of paramilitary organizations and the fear of forced recruitment and sexual violence. State security forces are also suspected of crimes against the civilian population.

The children are most severely affected by the armed conflicts and especially the children belonging to one of the country’s indigenous groups or the large black population group.

Human rights defenders, trade unionists and journalists are often subjected to death threats and abuses. Journalists often practice self-censorship to avoid reprisals from both the government and drug cartels and guerrilla groups. The perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, Colombia is ranked 128 out of 180 countries surveyed. The judiciary is characterized by threats and attacks on judges and prosecutors, especially when investigations concern corruption and drug-related crimes.

Gender-related violence is common in Colombia, and thousands of women and girls are subjected to sexual violence each year as a result of the conflicts, such as the girls who are forced into the guerrilla groups for the purpose of performing sexual services. Ignorance of women’s rights as well as fear of reprisal means that the enrollment rate is low and the dark figure is large. Discrimination against women, Afrocolombians, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQs and people with disabilities is widespread.

Heads of State


1900-04 José Manuel Marroquín
1904-09 Rafael Reyes Prieto
1909 Jorge Holguín
1909-10 Ramón González Valencia
1910-14 Carlos E. Restrepo
1914-18 José Vicente Concha
1918-21 Marco Fidel Suárez
1921-22 Jorge Holguín
1922-26 Pedro Nel Ospina
1926-30 Miguel Abadía Méndez
1930-34 Enrique Olaya Herrera
1934-38 Alfonso López Pumarejo
1938-42 Eduardo Santos
1942-45 Alfonso López Pumarejo
1945-46 Alberto Lleras Camargo
1946-50 Mariano Ospina Pérez
1950-53 Laureano Gómez
1953-57 Gustavo Rojas Pinilla
1957-58 Gabriel Paris
1958-62 Alberto Lleras Camargo
1962-66 Guillermo León Valencia
1966-70 Carlos Lleras Restrepo
1970-74 Misael Pastrana
1974-78 Alfonso López Michelsen
1978-82 Julio César Turbay
1982-86 Belisario Betancur
1986-90 Virgilio Barco
1990-94 César Gaviria Trujillo
1994-98 Ernesto Samper Pizano
1998-2002 Andrés Pastrana Arango
2002-10 Álvaro Uribe Vélez
2010-18 Juan Manuel Santos
2018- Iván Duque

Colombia Head of Government

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