Colombia’s electoral authority asked to study Petro’s 2022 campaign

President Gustavo Petro (Image: President's Office)

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro said Wednesday that “the silent coup has begun” after magistrates of the National Electoral Council (CNE) proposed to formally investigate his 2022 campaign.

The formal investigation was proposed by the two magistrates who have been investigating Petro’s campaign since early 2023.

In order to open a formal investigation, magistrates Alvaro Hernan Prada and Benjamin Ortiz need the support of six of the CNE’s eight magistrates.

“Democracy is in an emergency,” said Petro on Twitter.

According to the president, a CNE investigation would be arbitrary and unconstitutional.

I invite all the instances of the Historic Pact to meet immediately and the social forces of the country to prepare themselves against the attempt to disrespect the popular vote. Democracy is in an emergency. To the progressive Colombians abroad to initiate campaigns in the world against the coup d’état in Colombia.

President Gustavo Petro

According to weekly Semana, Prada and Ortiz found multiple violations of electoral law allegedly committed by Petro’s 2022 campaign.

Their main accusation is that the Petro campaign violated the cap on campaign contributions in both the first and the second round of the presidential elections.

Ahead of the first round, Petro sponsors contributed 3.7 billion pesos ($952 thousand) more than the 28.5 billion pesos ($7.3 million) that was allowed, according to the CNE magistrates.

For the second round, Petro’s campaign collected 1.6 billion pesos (412 thousand) more than the 13.3 billion pesos ($3.4 million) allowed by the law, said Prada and Ortiz.

The campaign also received “forbidden” contributions from labor unions and broke electoral law by paying electoral witnesses $15 (COP60K), according to the magistrates.

In his response, Petro stressed that Prada’s party, the far-right Democratic Center, received funds from at least one foreign corporation and that compensating electoral witnesses is not part of electoral campaigning.

Whether the proposal of Prada and Ortiz will be successful is far from certain as three of the eight CNE magistrates oppose their investigation, according to newspaper El Espectador.

If the investigation is formalized and the CNE confirms the allegations made by the magistrates, this could have legal consequences for the managers of Petro’s presidential campaign.

The CNE has long lack credibility because of its failure to effectively investigate electoral corruption and its magistrates’ ties to political parties.

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