As Colombia’s voters take to the polls to elect a new president, electoral corruption looms over the nation’s vote.
Independent investigations by political parties and electoral watchdogs argued that results in legislative elections held in March were tampered with.
The State Council ruled in February that the 2014 legislative elections were rigged.
Sunday’s elections are under serious threat to face the same fraudulent attack in three key areas.
The software used to count votes has come under fire from candidate Gustavo Petro, making repeated claims that the technology is outdated, unreliable and prone to “massive fraud.”
In February this year, the State Council confirmed claims that 235,000 votes had been lost in 2014 legislative elections because of “unauthorized access” to the software.
Both the State Council and cyber-security NGO Karisma Foundation asked for an audit of the software to comply with international electoral standards.
Independent monitoring group, the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), which has repeatedly backed Petro’s claims and called on officials to update the software, also outlined its concerns with a “series of recommendations” to the National Registrar.
“(We request) measures to facilitate access to information on ballots by political campaigns, control entities and electoral observation missions.”
It also called for vote records to be properly preserved “in the event of any complaints about the results.”
The National Election Commission said on Tuesday that it will allow computer experts to help monitor the vote-counting software during the vote.
National Registrar, Juan Carlos Galindo, has for the most part brushed off claims that the software is permeable to fraud.
In the last presidential debate before the elections, Petro highlighted the fact that vote-buying, particularly by candidates, has the ability to manipulate elections.
“All those who are listening to us here and all the citizens who are watching this debate know who buys votes here,” Petro said in reference to right-winged candidate German Vargas Lleras’ alleged vote-buying tactics.
Just days ago a video was released allegedly showing money being exchanged for votes in favor of Vargas Lleras.
From the day after legislative elections on March 12, MOE received 221 reports on electoral “anomalies and irregularities,” with a high number pertaining to vote-buying.
“We express our concern about the high number of reports (70) that refer to the establishment of incentives or direct pressure from employers to their workers to vote for a certain candidate.”
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court jailed senator-elect Aida Merlano on vote-buying charges while in 2010, up to one million voters reportedly received benefits in exchange for political support, according to a survey.
Despite outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos assuring these elections will be “transparent,” vote buying remains difficult to police.
Polling station irregulairites
Polling stations have come under repeated fire for not being adequately prepared, and in certain cases, being involved in illegal acts.
According to think tank Fundacion Paz y Reconciliacion, the legislative elections in March saw widespread voter fraud by electoral jurors.
Influential Senator Armando Benedetti said that thousands of jurors could not be found in social security databases.
According to a MOE survey, more than a third of electoral witnesses were advertising for certain candidates in those elections while 19% of polling booths brandished political advertisements. Both are strictly prohibited.
In addition, 30% of surveyed voters said they could not cast their ballots in secret.
Despite MOE having deployed an army of officials to oversee today’s elections and the government seeking both local and international support in monitoring voting, there are still strong concerns that corruption will have an affect on today’s outcome.