Risk of election fraud rises, despite international perceptions of Colombia’s ‘stable’ democracy
Risk of fraud is rising rapidly for Colombia’s elections next month, despite the international community’s common perception that Colombia is a stable democracy.
The risk of fraud in Colombia’s senate elections next month has increased 38 per cent over the last elections in 2010, according to an independent analysis of a non-governmental organization known as the Mision de Obervacion Electoral.
The analysis found the risk of fraud is medium to extreme high in 400 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities, according to the analysis of voter registration. Extremely high registration indicates illegal inducements to vote and extremely low registration indicates illegal discouragement.
The report found, however, found risks of fraud in congressional elections had fallen five per cent since 2010.
The probability of violence dropped about 7.5 per cent. While that decrease seems positive news, the report still found that some 389 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities faced significant risk of election-related intimidation or coercion.
The report seems to fly in the face of common reports that Colombia is one of Latin America’s most stable democracies, as is often repeated in the international press.
An analysis by the same organization – comprised of university, conflict analysis and internal displacement researchers – found that on average an act of political violence is committed every second day in Colombia.
It found that 314 acts of violence – threats, attacks, murders and kidnappings – were committed for political motives between Dec. 31, 2011 and Nov. 13, 2013.
Of those political crimes, 85 per cent were threats, eight per cent were attacks, five per cent were homicides and one per cent were kidnappings.
Colombia has a long history of election fraud, which has contributed to groups abandoning electoral reform in favour violent conflict.
The creation of M-19 is just one example. The former guerrilla organization was founded after the April 1970 presidential elections. The National Popular Alliance was leading in the results when all radio and television coverage was suddenly halted on election evening. When coverage resumed the next day it was reported that Conservative candidate Misael Educardo Pastrana had won. The clumsy apparent electoral manipulation set off widespread unrest including the creation of the M-19 which included current Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro among its leaders.
Colombia has seen wide-spread vote purchasing and intimidation that has frequently seen candidates supported by paramilitaries or their criminal successor groups or candidates supported by guerrillas win elections in areas dominated by the armed groups.
Some 150 congressional representatives, 25 governors y 60 mayors were investigated for paramilitary activities between 2006 and 2011. Some were jailed, and others suspended for their activities, but it is clear that many also used their influence and connections to evade justice.
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