Thursday, February 2

Accusations of fraud cloud the horizon of the presidential elections in Colombia

  • Gustavo Petro, leader of the left and favorite in the polls, has denounced that 400,000 votes were stolen from him in the legislative elections

  • President Iván Duque called for the ballots to be recounted amid growing political polarization

“Coup” and “fraud” They are not recurring words in the political language of Colombians. However, in the last few hours they resonated with unusual force less than three months before the presidential elections. Gustavo Petrowho leads the opinion polls ahead of the first round on May 29, did not refrain from using them when accompanying his complaint about the scandalous vote count in the legislative elections on March 13. Petro, the leader of the Historical Pact, has assured that he lacks at least 400,000 votes.

“I am suspending my presence in electoral debates until the transparency of the vote is guaranteed. We will act with maximum prudence and we ask the international oversight agencies to act promptly,” said the former mayor of Medellín. “What happened will have consequences between now and the first presidential round. It is not just that in 29,000 polling stations —26% of all the polling stations in the country—, according to Petro, not a single vote appears for the political force most favored by the predictions: the Historic Pact,” said Lisandro Duque Naranjo, a columnist for the Bogota newspaper The Spectatorr.

Despite this supposed decrease, the left thrashed the Democratic Centerthe party that responds to the former president Alvaro Uribe. The Historical Pact would guarantee at least 19 seats in the Senate as part of a notable growth that has also been verified in the elections to integrate the House of Representatives. The hard right has therefore gone from being a predominant voice in the Senate to a testimonial force. That setback made Uribe scream to the sky. “These elections leave all the mistrust. (Forms) E 14 full of cross-outs, amendments, signatures that do not match. Adding to the inconsistencies is the overwhelming vote of Petrismo in drug-trafficking zones,” he added to spread a greater cloak of suspicion.

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The scandal threatened to take on greater dimensions when the president Ivan Duke requested the complete recount of the votes to “give confidence to the citizenry”.

complex resolution

The national registrar Alexander Vega, who is at the center of all criticism, responded to the presidential request with the purpose of “safeguard the institutionality” and “get to the electoral truth” for the “tranquility of the country”. After hearing it, Petro flew into a rage: “what the registrar does is called fraud. The chain of custody of the votes ended on Saturday. At this time they may be filling the ballot bags. They disobey the decision of 5,000 judges. We are facing a true coup promoted by Uribe.”

Humberto de la Calle, the negotiator of the peace agreement between the Colombian State and the FARC lamented the “the ravages of polarization” that hangs over the country. “Petro was the first to stir up the specter of fraud. Now Uribe, in a subversive attitude, proposes to ignore the result. We cannot be condemned to choose between Petro and whoever Uribe says. Cool head. Institutions before populism”.

Beyond the controversy, it remains to be known in the next few hours about the viability of what the Vega registrar has announced. In principle, he must submit a request to the National Electoral Council (CNE) so that the review of the votes can be launched. “The question that hangs in the air is whether the CNE has this type of power to carry out a general recount,” said the Bogota newspaper The Spectatorr.

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The incidents surrounding the senatorial election come as no surprise to transparency specialists. In fact, a report from the EU observer mission detected some anomalies. “The discrepancy between the results of the pre-count for the Senate and those produced by this first stage of the scrutiny has been unusually large,” he noted.

The electoral scene heats up

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Eight days after the elections of discord, the candidates from the left and the non-Uribe right emerge as the main candidates for the presidency. A recent survey shows that Petro reaps a 32% of adhesions, against 23% of Federico Gutiérrez. The polarization seems to deteriorate the aspirations of the center’s standard-bearer, Sergio Fajardo.

“If i Petro manages to turn outrage into illusion, it will win in the first round, but the competition still lacks,” said Héctor Riveros, a columnist for the portal the empty chair. To achieve its objectives, other analysts point out, it will need to capture wills and support beyond the left.

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