Electoral observers in Colombia are calling for a new presidential debate to “return dignity and height to the electoral” process after a tumultuous week of scandal.
The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), an independent NGO, sent a letter to all five presidential candidates this past Friday in an attempt to organize an event that would return the focus of the country’s presidential campaign to the “confrontation of ideas, discussion of theory, and presentation of postulated programs.”
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
The MOE said in a press release that such a debate is necessary so that “citizens can know the positions and programs [of those] who have submitted their name to occupy the most important role of the state.”
This is in accordance with 2005 Electoral Guarantees Law, which allows candidates the right to realize “three debates of 60 minutes each,” in order to give all parties a fair say.
The move came after the campaign chiefs of Democratic Center (Centro Democratico – CD) candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and U Party (Partido de la U) candidate President Juan Manuel Santos resigned over scandals pertaining to illegal wiretapping and corruption, respectively.
Former Zuluaga Campaign Director Luis Alfonso Hoyos resigned last week after security footage linked him with arrested campaign contractor Andres Sepulveda, who stands accused of attempting to sabotage the ongoing peace talks between the Santos administration and the FARC rebel group, Colombia’s largest. Former Santos Campaign Director Juan Jose Rendon, meanwhile, resigned amid allegations that he accepted $12 million in 2011 to lobby on behalf of Colombia’s most powerful narco interests.
Accusations have flown back-and-forth since, with the Santos campaign painting Zuluaga and the right wing Democratic Center as attempting to undermine the administration’s signature peace process. Democratic Center party leader Alvaro Uribe, has responded by publicly denouncing some $2 million in drug money Santos allegedly used toward his first presidential campaign, a claim Uribe has refused to corroborate under oath.
With only two weeks until presidential elections, much of the media coverage surrounding the campaign has become caught up in scandal and political mud slinging.
The MOE’s proposed issues-oriented debate would take place on Thursday, May 22 from 8PM to 9PM in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota. So far, no candidates have announced if they will be participating. Santos, for his part, has yet to participate in a single presidential debate.
The MOE went on to solicit the creation of a Debates Commission, composed of delegates of the campaigns and public and private media enterprises, which would guarantee “equilibrium and an ample diffusion” of ideas.
The first round of the presidential elections will take place on May 25.
- MOE PIDE A TODAS LAS CAMPAÑAS LA REALIZACIÓN DE UN DEBATE PROGRAMÁTICO (MOE Press Release)