Colombia’s electoral authority ‘tries to keep Tomato Party out of 2014 elections’

(Photo: Colprensa)

Colombia’s Tomato Party, an ‘Occupy”-like political movement, said Wednesday that electoral authorities are trying to keep the party from taking part in the 2014 congressional elections.

MORE: ‘Indignation and action’: Meet the Tomato Party, Colombia’s newest political movement 

In an interview with Colombia Reports, Tomato Party co-founder Daniel Quintero called a recent National Electoral Council (CNE) decision to force the party to maintain its initially reported candidate list “a complete deformation of democracy.”

The party handed in a list of candidates from which the party executives want their supporters to choose the final list. The CNE told the party however that they must stick to the original list.

“They are attempting to change the rules in the middle of an election cycle,” he said, “in a way that obviously isolates one single party. It’s a mockery of the democratic process.”

The decision, he explained, would prohibit the Tomato Party from changing in any way the candidate list it submitted to the Colombian Registrar’s Office three months ago, when the party started its campaign to gather the 50,000 signatures necessary to enter candidates in a national election.

Since then, the party has gathered over 80,000 signatures, and initiated the internal deliberations it claimed it always intended on using to finalize its candidate list.

“What we submitted at the start of the signature campaing was only a temporary list,” said Quintero. “The idea was, from the beginning, to hold an open, democratic process within the party to adjust the list, in which its members could vote on each and every candidate, and nominate new ones for consideration.”

Aside from being consistent with the “horizontal integration” structure the Tomato Party seaks to promote, the candidate screening process being put in motion also “conforms with all the existing election laws,” said Quintero.

“What [the CNE is] saying,” said Quintero, “is that the signatures we gathered were in favor of a specific list of candidates, rather than in favor of the party, and its own ability to choose who to enter [in national congressional elections]. But this goes very clearly in contrast to every established rule of relevant election law.”

Election Law 1475 calls for campaign signature drives to be conducted by a “Comittee”, which subsequently, according to Quintero and the lawyers the Tomato Party has consulted with, has the power to make decisions on behalf of the “Significant Group of Citizens” the party is representing.

Even though the Tomato Party is founded on a more open power structure than Colombia’s major political organizations, Quintero and his co-founders — the “Comittee” outlined in the law — claim they have taken on the legal role of traditional party leaderships. The signature campaign, says Quintero, “ratifies a movement, not a list of names.”

Law 1475 also allows candidate lists to be changed, in the event of death, phsyical incapacitation or a decision by the candidate to withdraw or one by the party to withdraw him or her. According to the law, parties have the ability to change lists “within the five (5) business days following the closing” of the registration period, which, in this case falls on the ninth of December.

“Every other party in Colombia has until the 16th [of December],” said Quintero, “to remove candidates and insert new ones. We are the only ones who will be prohibited from making changes, according to a set of supposedly principled arguments on the part of the CNE that could only possibly apply to one political party.

“We have decided we cannot run candidates that our members haven’t directly approved of. Moreover, some of the people we nominated originally have renounced their candadicies, and the CNE is claiming that if they don’t enter [into elections], then we won’t be allowed to put any names [on the ballots] because the list is all-or-nothing.”

The Tomato Party leadership submitted a formal petition Wednesday to the Colombian Registrar’s office, which will have ultimate say on whether to adhere to the council’s recommendation, asking for a clarification of the election law and an explanation for why the Tomato Party is not being afforded the same legal standing as other, older parties.

A series of demonstrations have also been planned, including a ‘tomatina’ — a party favorite in which protesters hurl tomatoes at giant photos of politicians and other images — in Bogota Thursday at noon.

Spokesmen for the CNE refused Colombia Report’s request for comment on the apparent singling out of the Tomato Party.

To Quintero, the motivation is clear.

“The council is voted on by the existing political parties, meaning we are the only ones with no representation on it. The traditional political power structure in this country has taken note of what we are building, and they are scared.”



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