Colombia’s anti-corruption referendum: It’s happening

Colombia's congress building in Bogota. (Image: Tony Andersen)

Colombia will take to the polls again in September to seek the approval of far-reaching measures to curb corruption in Congress.

The country’s senate on Tuesday ratified the proposal of Senator Claudia Lopez (Green Alliance), who received millions of signatures in support of the initiative.

The referendum will ask the people to approve seven measures that would curtail the country’s notoriously corrupt congress.

The referendum

  • The salary of congressmen and top government officials must be reduced
  • Prison and a life-long ban on government contracts after corruption conviction
  • Compulsory transparency in the awarding of government contracts
  • Citizen participation in budget debates
  • Congressmen must publicly clarify voting behavior and attendance
  • Illegitimate income of lawmakers must be made public and seized
  • Congressmen may not serve more than three terms in Congress

Following the approval in the last voting round in Congress, the bill will be sent to President Juan Manuel Santos and electoral authorities who have one week to set a date for the vote.

Six million Colombians must vote in favor of the bill for the individual measures to become law. If abstention is higher than 70% the referendum will be declared invalid.

The approval of the bill is a major victory for Lopez who was elected to the senate four years ago with the promise to curb corruption.

The senator spent much of last year trying to obtain the necessary signatures to obligate Congress to approve the measures.

The country’s legislative branch is considered the country’s most corrupt public institution; congressmen have often been accused of using the allocation of public funds to inflate their political power or enrich themselves.

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