Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos proposed that all political campaigns be state-funded at the installation ceremony for a newly created electoral review body on Tuesday.
Santos’ announcement is an attempt to rid candidates of ties to special interests, which has been a major cause of corruption in the South American country.
At this point, with what we are seeing, we must be practical and timely. That’s why I suggest that [the Special Electoral Commission] consider at this time if 100% state financing would not be appropriate to put aside all those interferences from contractors and economic interests in our democracy and afterward we’ll see if this method works or not.”
President Juan Manuel Santos
The creation of the seven-member Special Electoral Commission was included in the peace deal signed with the Marxist FARC rebel group in November.
The body is tasked with making recommendations to improve, modernize and make the country’s electoral system more transparent while also making provisions for the smooth transition of the FARC into mainstream political participation.
The Commission’s coordinator will be Elizabeth Ungar, founder and director of the Visible Congress Observatory and, until just a few days ago, the Executive Director of Transparency for Colombia.
“We are totally in agreement that the financing of campaigns is the focus of the corruption, and that it is one of the biggest problems of the Colombian system,” Ungar said, according to El Espectador.
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo added that the “common denominator” of the corruption that has come to light in Colombia “is the illegal financing of campaigns by smugglers, contractors and drug traffickers” and that “we need to advance toward a system that guarantees transparency and equality of opportunity for all candidates to reach public office.”
In his remarks yesterday, Santos requested that the Commission provide their recommendations in two months’ time.
“You can count on full support from the Government to carry out this task. And I know you have three months, but I’m going to request from my heart that you expedite this to two months, that in two months you give us the recommendations,” he told the Commission, according to local media.