Colombia temporarily banned alcohol sales and imposed rigid security measures as millions of the country’s citizens vote on Sunday in undoubtedly the most contested presidential elections in 20 years.
Judging by voter polls, none of the presidential candidates have the support of 50% plus one of Colombians, which is required to win the elections outright in the first round. In the case that no candidate wins a majority of the vote on Sunday, “Uribista” candidate Juan Manuel Santos and independent candidate Antanas Mockus are the candidates most likely to face-off in a second round election on June 20.
Colombian authorities deployed tens of thousands of policemen, soldiers and intelligence agents to make sure the elections take place in an orderly manner and without interference from illegal armed groups. Bars and liquor stores have banned by law from selling alcohol from Friday 6 PM until Monday morning.
International observers from the Organization of American States and NGOs will monitor polling stations to prevent electoral fraud.
According to the country’s electoral authorities, the results of the vote will be known on Sunday evening.
The popularity of Green Party leader Mockus is the biggest surprise of these elections. The former Bogota mayor had less than 25% support in the first voter polls, but an intensive grass-roots campaign pushed him to first place.
Following the rise of this unexpected “green wave,” former Defense Minister Santos hired a new campaign team and started an an Internet offensive that saw him rise to be neck-and-neck in the polls with his main opponent.
For this reason, the second round of elections are expected to be the most contested in Colombia’s recent history. Supporters of both Mockus and Santos have begun accusing each other of buying votes. Other candidates have criticized what they call Santos’ campaign irregularities.
The winner of these elections will succeed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who occupied the presidential palace for two consecutive terms since 2002, but was barred from a bid for a third term by the country’s Constitutional Court.