The Colombian Electoral Nightmare


Colombia went to bed last Sunday with the feeling of having accomplished an “acceptable” electoral session, but woke up with a nightmare: hundreds of reports for fraud (manipulation of results, electoral material disappearance), riots (burning of registries and electoral urns) and protests due to vices in the process.

Colombia sets out to debut with electronic voting for 2014. Image: Listín Diario

aving accomplished an “acceptable” electoral session, but woke up with a nightmare: hundreds of reports for fraud (manipulation of results, electoral material disappearance), riots (burning of registries and electoral urns) and protests due to vices in the process.

The voices which applauded the quick and apparently reliable results on Sunday, turned around very few hours later claiming irregularities, even president Juan Manuel Santos recognized that in Valle del Cauca, “there have been many accusations made around possible fraud”, requesting therefore, if necessary, “a recount so people can set there mind at ease that a fair and transparent election was made, and where, in effect, the candidate who had the majority of votes won.”

Sentences like this, after calm regional elections, show once again, the flaws of manual voting the Neo-Grenadine country uses. Last year, flaws were due to delays in days to announce results, affectation of the National Registry´s portal and the forging of signatures to register candidates, but during the regional elections of this October 30th, irregularities and the lack of credibility in the vote pre-count generated violence.

Although the harm on electorate is done, the momentum of the National Registry of Civil Status can recompose it and the body is already working on it. Registrar Carlos Ariel Sánchez announced that last Sunday´s elections were the last manual ones in Colombia. He pointed out that his great aim is to “close the technological gap between identification and electoral processes. We have a world class, cutting edge biometric identification system, but Stone Age, manual elections and without technology.”

The plan proposed by the Colombian electoral power is based on the regulation to establish electronic voting that adds seven years of delays in being applied. After legalization, the Registrar carried out several pilot programs, all with a partial scope, it was in 2009 when electronic voting made its debut in internal elections of parties. The effort was positive, but the managers of public funds remain without allocating resources for Colombia to revamp its electoral system and progress in safeguarding the will of the people.

The vices and issues of the recent electoral processes seem to indicate that the times of indecision are over in this nation. The registrar assures that Colombia is already prepared to take on the technological challenge entailing electronic voting in 2014, but the lack of resources may drown the intent of the body of putting automation into practice. Voting modernization no longer depends on plans or budgets, but on authorities to decide on strengthening Democracy and cover budgetary requirements.

After the pre-count and count, there were riots in many localities around Colombia Image: El Tiempo

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