Almost 20% of Colombia’s 1101 municipalities are currently at risk of violence and electoral fraud in the run up to the countries’ local elections on October 25, according to electoral observers.
The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) has presented data showing that there is a spread of 204 municipalities across Colombia that are at categorical risk of electoral fraud and violence, or just one of the two.
Violations of freedom of the press, risk of forced displacement, political violence against elected and running candidates, and the active presence of illegal armed groups constitute violent risks, while spoiled ballots, blank votes, anomalies in levels of voter registration encompass the category of electoral risk.
“The analysis of election fraud is … complemented by a variety of factors indicative of violence, including threats and violent attempts against public servants or political candidates,” International Coordinator for the MOE, Andres Ceballos told Colombia Reports.
Election risk levels
In total, 59 municipals are under extreme risk and require immediate action from the authorities. The remaining at risk locations are either at “high risk” or “medium risk.”
“If the elections were held today, transparent and secure elections could not be guaranteed in 59 of the municipals marked by extreme electoral risk,” according to the MOE.
According to Ceballos, 2015 has seen “abnormally high registration rates”, allowing MOE to identify municipalities where there are more voters than residents.
Of the municipalities that are at risk of just electoral fraud or violence, there are 487 and 438 respectively, the latter being lower than in 2011 by 9.
On the whole, the authorities appear to be making a conscious effort to guarantee electoral transparency, however it seems that the they are fighting a losing battle as not everything has been done to secure transparency, and time is running out.
“The National Police are working hard on all the preparations for Plan Democracio, which will guarantee security and order. The National Registrar has made the voter registration process more accessible and easier to monitor. The Ministry of the Interior has also initiated a series of electoral commissions where municipal and departmental authorities can monitor and coordinate actions,” Ceballos told this website.
“On the other hand”, continued Ceballos, “the National Electoral Council did not activate the Electoral Tribunals for the local elections in October, which in the past performed oversight activities having to do with campaign finance. The Council magistrates are all representatives of the different political parties and often times constrained by partisan loyalties.”
According to Cebollas, Colombian local elections have always been characterized by the use of criminal activity in order to obtain political power, however the use of actual violence to influence the voting outcome “is limited to a very particular set of municipalities.”
“This year we found a total of 83 acts of electoral violence directed at political candidates or elected officials, including assassinations, kidnappings, verbal and/or physical attacks.”
MOE is reported to be working closely with the Prosecutor General’s Office and Ministry of the Interior to detect electoral crimes and irregularities, as well as with the National Electoral Council.