US and Latin American electoral watchdogs recommended on Monday that Colombia take a closer look at the phenomenon of voting abstention during election periods.
The Electoral Oversight Mission (MVE) and the Organization of American States (OAS), recommended that the Colombian authorities should look into the high levels of abstention in the elections and seek solutions to overcome this phenomenon.
According to the Registrar of voters, only 14.3 million, 0r 43.6% of the registered 32.7 million people turned up to vote in the congressional election on Sunday.
The key issue, according to Chilean former minister Jose Antonio Viera-Gallo, is that “the case in Colombia is that it is among the few countries [in Latin America] with voluntary voting” reported El Universal newspaper.
In countries such as Chile, with compulsory voting systems, participation has obviously risen. However this does not mean a better functioning electoral system as some people simply vote because they have to, not because they wish to support a certain candidate or party.
Viera-Gallo continued that Colombia should “consider whether the incentives to vote have been sufficiently effective” and suggested that alternatives such as shutting down trade on the day and providing free shuttle services to polling stations may help.
However Colombia already instigated some of these methods such as offering 10% off University tuition for those who voted as well as making the metro system in cities free of charge on election day.
The other issue suggested by Viera-Gallo was the complexity of the voting system and card itself. The electoral card does not display the names or faces of the candidates to vote for, only their number, meaning that you must remember exactly who you wish to vote for before you begin. This may also have been a reason for the increased number of blank votes as such a complicated system may have been why some made the conscious decision to abstain for voting for anyone and voting blank.
The blank vote won the election for the Andean Parliament on Sunday 9 meaning that the election must be repeated. This is the first time the blank vote has won in Colombian history. The number of blank votes reached 1,445,999 followed by 1,277,559 votes in favor of the U Party and 822,709 for the Conservative Party. The Andean Parliament is an entity which is working toward the economic and political integration of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
The OAS electoral mission will return to Colombia on 25 May, to act as overseers for the presidential election .