Polling stations opened at 8AM around Colombia, where some 15 million voters are expected to head to the polls to choose between presidential candidates Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus. Security is tight as leftist rebel group the FARC are expected to try to disrupt the electoral process.
Polling stations for Colombian expats in Europe and Australia opened hours before those in Colombia, while those in the U.S. will open at 8AM local time.
Colombia’s National Registry, the body responsible for the elections, says that 95% of the election results are expected to be known by 5:30PM.
Members of the European Parliament, and observers sent by the Organization of American States and a Colombian electoral NGO, will monitor the elections and report any fraud or irregularities.
The government, Green candidate Mockus, and the country’s Registrar all called on the Colombian people to vote. A general distrust of politics has meant that election turnout in recent history has never topped 50%.
The World Cup is expected to increase the chances of a traditionally low turnout.
To prevent the FARC disrupting the elections, the Colombian army and police force have increased security measures all over the country. A drinking ban is in place from Friday 6PM until Monday morning. Tens of thousands of policemen and soldiers have been deployed to ensure voter safety. The leftist rebels, in areas where they are still capable of disrupting public life, have urged people to stay home.
Santos, unofficial heir of the controversial but popular President Alvaro Uribe, is expected to win by both pollsters and analysts, despite earlier indications in the polls that Mockus was going to win the second round. Former Defense Minister Santos won the first round of elections with 46.5% of the votes against 21.% for Mockus.
Colombia Reports will be publishing the election results bulletins as they come in after 4PM local time.