Colombia’s polling stations open for first local elections with FARC candidates

Polling stations throughout Colombia opened their doors on Sunday for the first local elections in which former FARC rebels participate.

The elections are taking place between 8AM and 4PM under severe security measures and scrutiny of independent electoral observers to prevent violence and fraud.

Both state authorities and independent electoral observers are expected to issue preliminary reports on irregularities throughout the day.

Colombia takes to the polls for local elections after heated campaigns

Security forces and electoral observers on alert

Neither the security forces nor election observers have expressed concern about significant violent interference by illegal armed groups like the ELN guerrilla group or paramilitary groups like the AGC.

The FARC, until 2017 the country’s largest illegal armed group, is taking part in the local elections for the very first time.

Positions up for election

  • 32 governors
  • 1,101 mayors
  • 418 provincial assembly members
  • 12,063 city councillors
  • 6,814 community council members

However, both electoral observers and security forces are vigilant about unrest after a registered increase in violence during the three-month campaigns leading up to Sunday’s elections compared to previous polls.

According to the independent Electoral Observation Mission MOE, some 152 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities are at risk of fraud and violence. Forty rural municipalities where the state is either weak or absent are at extreme risk.

As is standard in Colombia, authorities have closed the borders and imposed a liquor ban.

Colombia closes borders and bans booze ahead of local elections

The aftermath

Once the polling stations close at 4PM, the borders will be reopened. The liquor ban will be maintained until Monday 6AM.

The results of mayoral elections in the capital Bogota and other major cities like Medellin and Cali are expected early in the evening.

Security forces will remain vigilant in risk areas where disputes over the outcome of elections could cause unrest.

By Monday, the country should have an idea on what the new political reality on local and regional level looks like.

The national government and politicians will keep a close eye on these results as they are seen as an important indicator of how electoral preferences have changed after the 2018 national elections.

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