Colombia’s National Registrar on Saturday urged citizens to give “greater legitimacy” to the country’s second round of presidential elections by not abstaining and turning out to vote.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
The head of the National Registry, Carlos Ariel Sanchez, has called on Colombian’s to vote during the nation’s second — and final — round of presidential elections following an abstention rate of 59.93% in the first round, news wires reported.
“For many years participation in the elections exceeded 50%,” Sanchez said regarding the first-round’s dismal abstention rate, which was the highest the country has seen in more than 20 years.
“We hope that the during the second round the participation rate climbs by at least 10 points to give greater legitimacy to the results,” Sanchez added.
According to El Tiempo, Sanchez participated in an election forum on Saturday, which discussed the issue and included observers from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations (UNIORE), Organization of American Sates (OAS), and the Election Observation Mission (MOE).
“People have to see the vote as a right and an obligation, because the person who doesn’t vote, in my opinion, doesn’t have a right to protest after,” Patricio Valdez, president of UNIORE, said.
“Abstention is a problem in this country,” Valdez added, “[the government] must decide what system it will implement to encourage people to participate more.”
High abstention in first round
After the presidential election’s first-round on May 25, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a statement which called on Colombia’s government to address the alarmingly large percentage of voter abstention.
“The first and most important issue is the lack of voter participation,” the statement read, “this is the first occasion in a presidential electoral process where the aggregate number of votes is actually less than the previous election.”
With only 40.07% of Colombia’s eligible 33 million voters participating, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga of former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center Party (Centro Democratico – CD) took first place with 29.25% of the vote, while incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos took 25.69%.
To reflect the high number of abstentions, only 11.4% of potential voters actually voted for Oscar Ivan Zuluaga to win Colombia’s first presidential round, according to the National Registry. Historically high among Colombian voters, the abstention figure is expected to rise as supporters of the other three candidates no longer in the race either mark the “blank” protest vote, or stay at home.
The run-off vote is expected to produce the tightest presidential race in recent history with support polls placing the two candidates neck and neck.