Colombia’s Congress on Wednesday received the first draft of the bill that seeks a change in the law allowing for a referendum on a potential peace agreement with rebel group FARC to be held simultaneously with the 2014 presidential or congressional elections.
Senator Hernan Andrade from the Conservative Party and Representative Alfonso Prada of the Green Party presented the first draft of a law that would specify and modify the rules for a popular vote to determine the end of a 50-year old armed conflict.
The five initial points that came from the first discussion of the rules of the referendum are as follows:
1. The Referendum must happen simultaneously with an election.
Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for the government hopes that there will be an agreement to vote on in time for the presidential elections in May 2014. There are many members of the Conservative Party and the Uribistas, the political party formed by the former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, who believe that the vote for peace should be separate from a regular election. They maintain that the voters who do not support the peace process will be discriminated against and will not be able to make a decision freely.
2. The Referendum will be without armed proselytizing.
The presenters explained that this may seem obvious, but if the FARC were not disarmed, then there would be no referendum. This is to guarantee that only civil society members will participate in the promotion of and voting on a bill.
3. Wide dissemination of the agreement to end the conflict.
The presenters stated that any agreement between the government and the FARC or ELN will be transparent and debated in depth. The purpose of this is so citizens know exactly what are the contents of this commitment to peace.
4. State funding for “Yes,” “No,” and “Abstention” campaigns.
The state must give equal amounts of campaign funding to constituents in favor of voting “yes,” “no,” and “abstain.”
5. There is no requirement to participate in the referendum.
Citizens will be able to go to the polls and vote for the president, members of the Senate and the House, and opt to not vote on the referendum.
Congress will debate and discuss these new rules for referendum in full starting next Tuesday.