There has been a massive increase in violence and electoral fraud in the build up to Colombia’s local elections in October, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE).
The MOE report documented a 68% increase in violence targeting candidates. In 2007, the MOE registered 65 acts of violence. With 75 days remaining before the 2011 elections begin, there have already been a reported 109. However, the number of municipalities registered as at risk of violence has fallen from 576 to 447.
According to the MOE’s Claudia López, “in these elections we are finding that besides ilegal armed groups such as the FARC and Bacrim (Criminal grangs), common criminals are also carrying out acts of violence against candidates and threatening and killing candidates as a form of interference in local politics.”
MOE claims there has also been a 67% rise in irregularities suggesting electoral fraud, such as unusually high or low voter participation or null votes. The report registered 544 municipalities at risk of fraud as opposed to 328 in 2007. The MOE’s research suggested that, unlike in previous elections, most of the fraud was not linked to armed groups but to politicians from mainstream political parties.
MOE director Alejandra Barrios called on political parties to revise their methods of selecting and vetting candidates. She said, “these political organisations depend directly on their representatives obeying the law and that the results represent the authentic will of the people and not corrupt acts [or] illegal or private interests that carry out fraud.”
The report also identified 241 municipalities that were a high risk of violence and fraud. Most of these municipalities are in the regions bordering Venezuela and Ecuador and along the pacific coast – all areas with major trafficking routes and a high presence of illegal armed groups.
On Tuesday, government ministers disputed figures presented to the senate by Polo Democratico’s Camilo Romero concerning electoral violence. Both the government and Romero presented statistics different to the MOEs.
Claudia Lopez told Colombia Reports she did not know where the government or Senator had obtained their figures but the MOE data had been rigorously researched by teams on the ground around the country.