Exchange to Change January 2017 - Page 10

10 INTERVIEW
Colombian Peace Agreement
While media throughout the world have paid much attention to the British referendum , Great Britain is far from the only place where a referendum has taken place that has the potential to shift the course of the country ’ s history . In the year 2016 more than 20 countries worldwide organized referenda in which the electorate was given a say in crucial issues such as presidential terms , same-sex marriage and European migration policy ( see timeline ). In Colombia , the country used a referendum to accept or reject a peace agreement between the government and FARC rebels . The “ yes ” campaign was led by President Santos , while the “ no ” vote was spearheaded by former President Uribe . The referendum was largely symbolic and was expected to deliver a resounding “ yes ” as the final result , insulating the agreement against claims that it did not have popular support . Yet when the votes were tallied , the “ no ” side won . E2C asked Carolina Rojas Peña , a Colombian student currently enrolled in a master program here at IOB , to reflect on the surprising result .
E2C : Why did Colombia organize a referendum on the peace agreement ?
CRP : The idea that the final peace agreement between the FARC and the government should be endorsed by the Colombian citizens was proposed by President Santos about three years ago . The president did this to gain legitimacy and to make Colombian people feel involved in the process and decision making which would facilitate the implementation of the agreement . However , the referendum was not mandatory , because the president has the power to just send the agreement to Congress for approval without consulting the Colombian citizens . It was meant as a goodwill gesture , but many politicians who also want peace have criticized Santos for taking this risk .
E2C : Do you think the referendum was an appropriate tool to make this decision ?
CRP : I think it is a perversion of the term democracy to believe that all decisions should be made by the majority . This supposes that the majority of the population are prepared , well informed and have sufficient knowledge to take important decisions . But in the Colombian case they did not . I imagine people were worried that this huge decision was in their hands without knowing enough about the consequences of either option ( yes or no ). I think the government needs to be more careful when attempting to have the majority decide on such specialized and complex topic . It should be the responsibility of the government .
United Kingdom
Date : 23 / 06 / 2016 Ref : Brexit Turnout : 65.38 % Outcome : 51.89 % leave , 48.11 % stay
Thailand
Date : 07 / 08 / 2016 Ref : constitutional referendum Turnout : 59.40 % Outcome : 61.35 % for , 38.65 % against
Bahamas Bermuda
Date : 07 / 06 / 2016 Ref : Constitutional referendum
Exchange to change January 2017
Date : 23 / 06 / 2016 Ref : Bermudian same-sex union and marriage referendum Turnout : 46.89 % Outcome : 31.46 % for , 68.54 % against 36.97 % for , 63.03 % against