With only a few reported rebel attacks, less than 20 arrests and little more than 160 fraud allegations, Colombia’s congressional elections that began at 8AM this morning are proceeding in relative calm.
Police did arrest five suspects for allegedly trying to influence voters on their way to the polling stations in the southern Putumayo state, said Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon who called this year’s elections the “most secure” in Colombia’s history.
Twelve more suspects were arrested at polls throughout the country, reported Colombian news agency El Tiempo. Some of the arrested were arrested for crimes related to voter fraud while others were reportedly arrested because of pre-existing warrants.
Rebel groups like the FARC and ELN refrained from high-profile attacks; According to local police, FARC rebels did attack an army unit, but away from a polling station. A front of the FARC also has been blamed for preventing some residents from voting in a municipality in the state of Putumayo said El Tiempo.
Heavy rains have caused more problems for voters in parts of the central western states of Tolima and Valle de Cauca than voter fraud. The rains have caused some voters to stay indoors while flooding has caused delays in the transportation of election materials to some locations.
The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) reported Sunday that as of 11AM that it had received only 104 citizen complaints about potential electoral crimes or irregularities.
MOE said that it received a variety of complaints of voter fraud, the majority being the buying or selling of votes but also threats to voters, and political interference in the voting process. Nevertheless reports of voter fraud and irregularities reported by MOE was relatively low.
The most popular problem seen at the voting booths was the inclusion of political propaganda in the voting area which is banned by Colombian law. MOE reported that illegal political propaganda was present in 44% of polling stations.
MOE also noted that 27% of election officials were illegally advertising certain political parties or candidates.
21% of voters reported that voting booths were inadequate said MOE. The majority of these voters complained that there was not enough space to vote inside the voting booth. There were also complaints of insufficient directions inside the voting booths and a lack of help from voting officials.
MOE also said in its report that its observers were delayed for a short period of time by poll security forces in 2% of the municipalities they had planned to be present in. Therefore, those officials missed the opening of the polls and potentially any problems for this brief time.
Inspector General’s Office
The Inspector General’s Office has reportedly received an additional 61 complaints nationwide for electoral offenses during the first hours of Sunday’s election, most of which were related to pressure from public officials to change the vote and illegal political propaganda from candidates, El Espectador reported.
The Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez called on citizen “not to hesitate to denounce these irregularities,” and added that his office would investigate these complaints and those made in recent days, which have totaled 500.
The National Control Commission of Electoral Affairs — as part of the Inspector General’s office — has registered the complaints as predominantly filed by residents of the capital Bogota, and the states of Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Bolivar, Boyaca, Caldas, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Quindio, and Santander.
Ordoñez assured that officials from his office were present in all municipalities as part of special surveillance plan due to the amount of complaints received from across the country over the past few days.
Polling stations will stay open until 4PM local time. The first election results are expected to arrive after 5PM local time.