The Organization of American States (OAS) called on Colombia’s government to address the alarmingly large percentage of voter abstention from the country’s latests presidential elections, according to a statement released on Monday.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
“The first and most important issue is the lack of voter participation,” the statement read, “this is the first occasion in a presidential electoral process where the aggregate number of votes is actually less than the previous election.”
|“Campaigns focused on attacking the other candidate do not encourage voter turnout, but rather promote abstention”|
The OAS statement was unforgiving in its condemnation of the high abstention rate in Sunday’s election which totalled 59.93%. After congratulating the government for a peaceful and relatively more transparent election, the regional organization stated the need to bring attention to the apparent weaknesses of the electoral process.
Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday finished with two conservative candidates set to face off in a second round scheduled for June 15.
With only 40.07% of Colombia’s eligible 33 million voters participating, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga of former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center Party (Centro Democratico – CD) took first place with 29.25% of the vote, while incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos took 25.69%.
To reflect the high number of abstention, only 11.4% of potential voters actually voted for Oscar Ivan Zuluaga to win Colombia’s first presidential round, according to the National Registry.
“This can only be interpreted as a manifestation of the profound disenchantment the citizenry has with the political system. This powerful message should not go unheeded,” said the OAS.
The organization goes on to say that political parties and the electoral authorities should “launch a national effort to build a social conscience and get citizens to exercise their right to vote.”
“The negative tone of the presidential campaigns was one of the principal factors for such a high abstention rate, according to the electoral observation mission,” the statement continued, referring to the campaign process in the weeks leading up to the elections which caused some analyst to call them the “dirtiest” in history.
Additionally, OAS electoral observers noticed a decrease of overall electoral observers of Colombia’s political parties and the lack of a guarantee of a confidential vote.