Polling stations in Colombia closed at 4PM Sunday after a day of local and regional elections that according to the national government went without major incidents.
In contrast to the bloody lead-up to the elections, in which 41 political candidates were assassinated, Sunday saw much less violence. According to Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras, there were only 7 reports of violent incidents — an 86% drop compared to the last local elections in 2007.
There were, however, several isolated incidents, according to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE). The observers reported one instance of an attack on a candidate for council in the northeast Norte de Santander department. The candidate was shot by contract killers, but survived the attack. There were also two other attacks and one disturbance in the Arauca, Nariño, and Norte de Santander departments.
Despite the relative lack of violence, there were more than 30 reports of irregularities. Electoral observers were refused entry to polling stations in several major cities, including Bogota and Medellin, as well as similar incidents in the departments Nariño, Meta and Antioquia.
In Medellin, where the MOE recently issued a distress call concerning the possibility of influence from illegal armed groups, observers received complaints regarding voter intimidation in Comuna 1, Comuna 5 and Comuna 6. In Medellin’s Comuna 13, members of local gangs handed out slanderous flyers against mayor candidate Anibal Gaviria and governor candidate Sergio Fajardo. There were also reports of buying and selling votes in Colombia’s second largest city, as well as in Barranquilla, Cartagena and Marmato.
The MOE also found that there were no electoral witnesses in 26% of the polling stations across Colombia and in 20%, voters were not able to vote anonymously.
There was several incidents of falsified ballots being printed in the north and east of Colombia. In Yopal, Casanare, 25% of the ballots were already marked in favor of specific candidates. Vargas Lleras called the pre-marked ballots a printing error and announced that new ballots have been sent to the capital city.
The run-up to the elections, however, was not at smooth as the elections themselves. The local elections were marred before they began with the killing of 41 candidates, the political parties’ withdrawn endorsement of over a 1,000 allegedly criminal politicians and the alleged cancellation of 4 million identity cards suspected to be used for election fraud.