Colombia’s Congress on Tuesday approved the government’s 2022 budget, which contained a controversial rider that opens the door for fraud in the upcoming elections.
The vote generated major controversy because it suspended the so-called “Guarantees Law” less than half a year before congressional elections that are set for March next year.
The Guarantees Law bars authorities from awarding public contracts in the six months before and after elections in order to prevent the creation of electoral slush funds.
Ahead of the vote, constitutional experts warned that Congress’ attempt to modify electoral law through a budgetary vote was unconstitutional.
The House of Representatives denied a motion filed by opposition Congresswoman Katherine Miranda to remove the controversial rider from the 2022 budget.
Miranda was furious and said her colleagues “really want to use public funds in the campaign to grease the wheels.”
Don’t you — who have been in Congress for more than three years — know that a statutory law is modified by the First Commission? Or don’t you know that you need a majority? Or don’t you know that the change of a statutory law requires the oversight of the Constitutional Court?
Representative Katherine Miranda
The opposition lawmaker added that no budget would prevent an electoral defeat of President Ivan Duque’s coalition in Congress “because the people have woken up.”
Electoral observers raise alarm
The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), which has monitored elections in Colombia for more than a decade, confirmed that the vote to suspend the Guarantees Law “would be unconstitutional.”
The Guarantees Law is a statutory law, which means that it can’t be modified though a budget law. This would be unconstitutional.
Electoral Observation Mission
Constitutional law expert Rodrigo Uprimmy called the modification of electoral law “unacceptable” and “grossly unconstitutional.”
If approved by the president, the Constitutional Court will rule whether the 2022 budget is constitutional or not.
If the high court agrees with the experts, the entire budget proposal will be returned to Congress for the second time since Duque took office in 2018.