Voting has begun in Colombia’s presidential elections, with none of the five candidates projected to secure the absolute majority of votes required to take power for the next four years.
The campaigns carried out by the aspiring candidates, labelled by some analysts as the “dirtiest” in Colombia’s history, have failed to sway the country’s citizens — according to numerous polls — making a second round likely on June 15.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
Although the spotlight has been on the scandals involving the election’s two main contenders, incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and Democratic Center‘s (Centro Democratico – CD) Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, electoral watchdogs are confident that Sunday’s election will be a peaceful one, as the country’s two main rebel groups confirmed a unilateral ceasefire for the duration of the elections.
President Santos has pinned his re-election hopes on the ongoing peace process with the country’s largest guerrilla group the FARC, which has been taking place in Cuba since 2012 and seeks to end 50 years of civil conflict.
The ELN, the country’s other major rebel group, has not been part of the current dialogues.
The incumbent will hope that the dialogues are enough to push him over the line and edge out Zuluaga, candidate for former president Alvaro Uribe‘s CD party, and the other presidential hopefuls, Marta Lucia Ramirez from the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador – CP), Clara Lopez of the Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico – PD), and Enrique Peñalosa of the Green Alliance (Alianza Verde – AV) party.
Peaceful elections amid scandals
Scandals and criminal accusations have blazed through candidates’ credibility, causing many analysts to call campaigning leading up to the 2014 presidential elections the “dirtiest” in Colombia’s history.
Briefly after launching his campaign, one of Santos’ chief political strategists was forced to resign when a Colombian drug lord’s testimony before US prosecutors was leaked to Colombian media.
According to media, drug lord “Comba” told the prosecutors that he and other top drug lords had paid spin doctor Juan Jose Rendon $12 million to promote a proposal to negotiate their surrender and jointly dismantle existing drug trafficking routes to prevent emerging groups from taking over.
One day after Rendon’s resignation, prosecutors stormed an alleged wiretapping operation in Bogota, arrested a hacker who was accused of wiretapping the peace talks and receiving classified military information.
Candidate Zuluaga lost his campaign manager after national television network RCN reported that campaign manager Luis Alfonso Hoyos and the wiretapping subject had visited their newsroom to provide them with information about the FARC and the president.
As well as the ceasefire announced last week by both the ELN and the FARC, Colombia’s Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon stated that over half of Colombia’s Armed Forces will be covering 99.52% of all polling stations to secure peaceful elections.
Over 16 million — less than half — of 33 million eligible Colombians are expected to cast their ballot for their preferred candidate on May 25.
Voting opened at 8AM and will close at 4PM, with results expected to be reported prior to 8PM local time. Armed security details and independent electoral observers are already stationed throughout the country.