Colombia’s electoral integrity under scrutiny amid accusations of fraud

In one of the most damaging episodes in Colombia’s recent electoral history, just days after the national registrar announced the final vote count for the March 13 legislative primaries and the election of the three candidates for the presidency of the coalition, Gustavo Petro of the Pacto Histórico (Historical Pact) cried foul by claiming that 500,000 ballots to elect senators and representatives to the Chamber of his movement were not counted.

Petro’s claims that the vote count was fraudulent despite all the alleged 500,000 votes to his Colombia Humana party, came after the National Registrar’s Alexander Vega admitted that the E-14 ballot had a “myriad of inconsistencies based on “human errors” despite oversight. by national and international jurors.

Faced with growing accusations from Petro and the current favorite in the presidential election with 37% of voting intention according to the latest Yanhass poll, President Iván Duque has backed a recount of all the ballots which will decide the number of seats each party will get to Congress. On Tuesday, Vega confirmed that he would not present a petition to the Independent National Electoral Council (CNE) to recount the vote. The other presidential candidates who were elected in their respective coalitions did not contest the elections, but asked for transparency.

During a Sunday debate organized by the RCN network, Federico Gutiérrez said it was “surprising that all the missing votes belong to Petro”. Equipo Colombia’s center-right candidate won 2.1 million votes, followed by Sergio Fajardo of the centrist Centro Esperanza coalition with 721,521. Gutiérrez is widely seen as the candidate who will contest the first round of the presidential election on May 29 against Petro.

In Sunday’s Yanhass poll, the former mayor of Medellín has 19% support among those polled, up from 3% in January. Independent candidate Rodolfo Hernández (11%) has seen his base erode over the past three months, while Fajardo (10%) is trying to stay in the double digits. The candidate of the Oxygène Vert party, Ingrid Betancourt, has a 2% intention to vote.

Despite securing 4.4 million votes from his supporters, Gustavo Petro’s election night celebration was muted as the tally fell short of the 4.8 million he received in the first round of the 2018 presidential election on May 27, representing 25% of the total votes cast. As the official candidate of the right-wing Centro Democrático party, President Duque garnered more than 7.6 million votes – nearly 40% – resulting in a runoff with Petro on June 17.

The difference, however, with the last primaries, is that within the historical Pact of Petro, a social leader of the department of Cauca in conflict, Francia Márquez, obtained more than 780,000 votes. While she remains a staunch supporter of Petro’s socialist agenda, Márquez’s high vote count reveals political divisions within an uncohesive left, or a growing “protest vote” against Israel’s hegemony. former M-19 guerrillas.

If Marquez’s 780,000 votes are removed from Petro’s final tally, the senator’s level of support within his own coalition drops to 3.6 million. Yet despite Petro’s “overwhelming support” (as many foreign new media headlined the primaries) of 11.7 million ballots, when nearly 20 million registered voters head to the polls on May 29 , Petro (not his coalition) will need 50% plus one vote of all ballots (approximately nine million and counting) to claim victory in the first round. A victory he believes to be his, and anything short of becoming president-elect, will also most likely be challenged as a “fraud.” During the first debate with the Semana/El Tiempo media groups, Petro was the only candidate who hinted that he might challenge the election results.

The allegations of fraud presented by the head of Pacto Histórico were disputed by Petro’s political nemesis, former two-term president Álvaro Uribe, who said on Twitter: “Dr Petro, win the elections, don’t try not to steal them or impose on you by plotting accusations of fraud against those of us who demand clear accounts.Uribe’s Centro Democrático party lost five seats in Congress and a legislative defeat recognized by the conservative leader as a blames “my reputation and what the government (of President Iván Duque) has failed to do”.

Petro announced on Twitter on Sunday that he would not participate in any presidential debates with other candidates until “transparency of the vote is guaranteed”, and a move his rivals are seizing on to gain political traction. During Sunday’s big RCN debate, Fajardo, Betancourt, Gutiérrez and Miguel Gómez all agreed that “democracy is not in danger”. Holding a photo of the absent Petro, Gutiérrez pointed to his rival, saying: “He won’t come back to these debates because he knows that Colombians no longer believe his lies.”

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