Pollster Gallup Colombia released last-minute poll results Saturday less than 12 hours before Sunday’s local elections, confirming socialist Gustavo Petro’s lead in the capital Bogota and a tie between Anibal Gaviria and Luis Perez in the country’s second largest city Medellin.
The Gallup poll confirms four other pollsters who have put Petro on top after initially lagging behind Peñalosa when campaign began months ago.
In Medellin, where the election race has been particularly aggressive, independent candidate Perez leads with 37.8%, followed closely by Gaviria who received 36.5% of the intentional votes. According to Gallup, the margin of error is 3.9%, making the poll results a virtual tie.
Perez made a remarkable jump from 31.7% to 37.8% in 24 hours, while Gaviria went from 34.1% to 36.5%.
The rise of Perez comes amid accusations by both outgoing mayor Alaonso Salazar and citizen complaints registered by the independent electoral observer NGO Electoral Observation Mission, who called the electoral situation in Medellin critical because of the involvement of locally active illegal armed groups in the process and the apparent breaking of electoral law by the mayor denouncing Perez’s alleged ties to illegal armed groups..
This year’s election campaign has not only been particularly turbulent in Medellin; with 41 candidates murdered nationally and roughly 88 Colombian candidates receiving death threats.
According to the MOE’s Claudia Lopez, “in these elections we are finding that besides illegal armed groups such as the FARC, neo-paramilities, drug cartels, common criminals are also carrying out acts of violence against candidates and threatening and killing candidates as a form of interference in local politics.”
In addition to a dramatic election race there have been concerns throughout Colombia that the possibility of election fraud is extremely high.
In terms of voter fraud, there have been abnormal increases in newly registered identification papers, resulting in scrutiny from overseeing organizations, such as the MOE, as well as reports of buying votes.
There have also been declarations that corruption and voter swaying will result in biased election outcomes. There have been reports of politicians with paramilitary ties as well as biased attacks against specific political parties, candidates, and individuals.
“On Sunday, millions of Colombians will choose our regional leaders – mayors, governors, councilors, representatives – and it’s the ideal time, through voting, for us to punish the corrupt and choose the most honest and most capable [candidates],” President Juan Manuel Santos told the Colombian voters Thursday.
There is a lot weighing on the 2011 elections as they will determine who will have political rule over Colombia’s major cities; Bogota, Medellin, and Cali and areas crucial for criminal groups involved in drug trafficking and local elites who face nationally-promoted land reforms.
In preparation for the election, cities and towns across Colombia have buckled down in accordance with regulations that prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol, transportation of arms, and exit or entry across international borders.
More than 330,000 Army troops and police officers have been deployed to protect and oversee the voting process, assuring that armed groups or subversive campaigners don’t sway votes, and no-show citizen election observers could be fined up to $3,000 dollars if they don’t appear for work Sunday.
However, the MOE sent out an alert for possible riots after the closng of the polls and the announcing of the results. The organization called on candidates to ask their followers to keep calm and secure peaceful elections.
Colombia’s Electoral Council has announced it is fully prepared for the elections that will take place Sunday between 8AM and 4PM.
The president of National Electoral Council, Joaquin Jose Vives, said that they will begin counting ballots as soon as the polling stations close until midnight on Sunday. They will resume counting at 9AM on Monday and announce the winners later that day.