Colombia’s Registrar General Carlos Ariel Sanchez warned that a lack of support from security forces and the relocation of polling booths could affect the upcoming election of presidential candidates on 27 September.
Political parties Polo Democratico and the Partido Liberal will be choosing their presidential candidates next Sunday.
In his letter, Sanchez expressed concern that “they are moving polling booths and tables from outlying areas to municipal centers, mainly due to a lack of protection from security forces and in agreement with municipal mayors. This is recurring across much of the country.”
The Registry’s concern is not unfounded. Various municipalities whose mayors are members of President Alvaro Uribe’s party have complained that they are not guaranteed that the day of voting will pass normally, without impediment, reports weekly Semana.
José Noé Ríos, secretary general of the Partido Liberal, wrote to the Ministry of the Interior to also express his concern that polling booths in the departments of Tolima, Nariño and Valle del Cauca have been moved due to a lack of security support.
Sanchez warned that “fundamental rights to vote and to be elected, along with transparency and equality are at risk.” For this reason he requested that the Minister of the Interior, Fabio Valencia Cossio, to “issue the necessary instructions to overcome this deficiency.”
Newspaper El Espectador reported that the Partido Liberal accused the government of making a “premeditated” decision to move polling booths in order to prevent “free electoral exercise.
“The government moving hundreds of polling booths from outer municipalities to [urban areas] is an attack on democracy, freedom of expression and a failure of democratic security,” they said in a statement.
The Registry announced that the elections would proceed as normal; that is, that 9,776 posts and 23,629 polling stations would be installed.
However, to date several mayors have requested the transfer of approximately 300 polling booths, arguing the lack of resources and security guarantees.
Sanchez reported that “as we approach the election day there have been increasing applications in this regard.”
The relocation of polling booths from rural areas to urban centers is normal, due to the serious threats presented by illegal armed groups. However, an unjustified transferral of polling booths can impinge on citizens’ right to vote.