Voting in Colombia’s congressional elections ended at 4 PM local time amid numerous reports of electoral irregularities by independent and government authorities.
After a relatively calm election day, which nonetheless included approximately 150 allegations of electoral fraud or interference to electoral watchdog bodies, voting for the Colombian congress has closed in the country’s most important and “secure” elections of the last 50 years.
UPDATE 5PM: Minimal press interference reported
Just before the close of polls, the Foundation for the Liberation of the Press (FLIP) reported minimal interference with the press during. On their Twitter account, FLIP reported restrictions on the press in Antioquia, Bolívar and Putumayo, but the incidents were fairly minor, including photographers not being allowed inside a school in Envigado, south of Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin.
Security: relative calm
Although authorities also reported two alleged rebel attacks and around 20 arrests throughout the day, the Colombian ombudsman indicated that the security situation during elections, traditionally a serious problem, particularly in the countryside, was as good as officials had “hoped for,” echoing sentiments expressed by various other officials, including the minister of defense.
— Defensoría delPueblo (@DefensoriaCol) March 9, 2014
Cyber attacks on parties, political blog
Among other non-violent incidents to occur during the day were cyber attacks targeting the website of one prominent political blog and two major political parties. The Foundation for the Freedom of the Press NGO also reported restrictions on journalistic access in three states.
The results of the newly elected legislative branch, expected to be released starting at 8PM local time, will hold broad implications for the country’s future, as representatives will have direct input into any potential agreement to emerge from ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group, which have been engaged in open conflict for the past half century.
The upcoming legislative agenda is expected to include reforms in the education, health care and judicial sectors.
Approximately 2,300 candidates competed for the 102 Senate and 166 House of Representatives seats. The vote for Colombia’s delegation to the Andean Parliament, a regional integration body, will also be decided through Sunday’s vote.
34 International voting stations for Colombians living abroad have also closed, with San Francisco being the last voting station to do so at approximately 7:30 PM local Colombian time.