Colombia’s state council ruled on Monday that the country’s conservative opposition purposely deceived the public ahead of a referendum on peace with the FARC and is considering nullifying its result.
The state council admitted a lawsuit to this effect, which sought to nullify the results of the referendum that sank an original peace deal between the government and the Marxist FARC rebel group.
Two attorneys had asked for the nullification of the shock vote result, claiming the opposition broke electoral law by purposeful misleading of the electorate in their promotion of a “no” vote to peace with the country’s largest rebel group FARC.
The ‘No’ campaign promoted “a climate of disinformation, manipulation, distortion of truth – necessary for the adoption of a sovereign decision – regarding the definition of the destiny of Colombians on a fundamental issue for the life of the State and society,” said the state council in its preliminary ruling.
Purposely lying or disinforming the public for electoral purposes is considered a crime by Colombian electoral law.
While the state council formulates a final verdict, it ordered the government to continue the implementation of the peace deal of which a revised version ultimately was approved by Congress and the Constitutional Court.
The state council further urged the constitutional court to “prioritize the resolution of constitutional demands in which it must expressly rule on the validity” of the ‘fast track’ mechanism, analyzing in particular the article requiring popular endorsement to enact the reduction of congressional voting rounds necessary to pass peace-related legislation.
The constitutional court already gave the green light to fast-track peace legislation last week.
In making its ruling, the state council acknowledged the “full probative value of the interview given” by Democratic Center campaign manager Juan Carlos Velez in which he surprisingly revealed the ‘No’ campaign strategy had been to foment public discontent and actively avoid the use of fact-based arguments.
The decision regarding the suspension of the referendum results will be left to the state’s Electoral Chamber when it resumes activity, according to newspaper El Colombiano.
The failed October referendum plunged Colombia’s peace process into a major crisis and forced President Juan Manuel Santos to negotiate a revised deal with opponents.
Only last week was this revised peace deal approved by the constitutional court.