The first nationally televised debate between candidates vying in Colombia’s presidential elections was canceled Wednesday as both incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and his rival, hardliner Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, failed to appear.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
The debate, organized by civilian electoral watchdog MOE and scheduled to be televised on public television, was canceled at the last minute over what the MOE called “logistical reasons and technical requirements of RTVC,” the public television authority.
According to newspaper El Pais, Santos had failed to confirm his publicly promised assistance while agency Colprensa reported that Zuluaga canceled his assistance at the last moment.
Both candidates also failed to appear at Canal Capital, the public television network for the capital Bogota. This debate was not canceled but was only attended by the leftist Clara Lopez, Conservative Party candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez, and the centrist Enrique Peñalosa who did not arrive until after the broadcast had begun.
Santos failure to appear conflicts his promise made on Saturday at the end of weeks of cross-country campaigning and under increased criticism by the MOE and political analysts the lack of debates was preventing Colombians from knowing the electoral proposals of all candidates.
Zuluaga’s failure to appear at any agreed public performances on Wednesday coincided with increased pressure on the candidate and his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, over a leaked video in which the candidate is being briefed on dodgy electoral strategies by a campaign worker who was arrested earlier this month over allegations of spying on ongoing peace talks with the FARC.
According to Colprensa, Zuluaga also failed to appear on interview with radio stations La FM and canceled interviews scheduled for Thursday with radio stations Blu and Caracol publishing, on their websites, a photo of host Dario Arizmendi raising his hands while showing Zuluaga’s empty chair.
Both Santos and Zuluaga have confirmed their assistance to debates organized by private national television networks RCN and Caracol scheduled respectively for Thursday and Friday evening.
The elections, preceded what several political analysts have called the dirtiest campaigns in recent history, are held on Sunday.