Some 11,000 polling stations across Colombia will open between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. local time to allow voting in the first round of the presidential election, in which a successor to President Juan Manuel Santos will be chosen.
Some 36 million Colombians are eligible to vote, according to a March 2018 electoral census. However, just below half or an estimated 15 million to 16 million voters are expected to turn out.
The favorite candidates in the race are right-wing nominee Ivan Duque and leftist Bogota ex-Mayor Gustavo Petro. According to El Pais, Duque is in the lead with 37 percent, approximately 10 points ahead of Petro (27 percent) followed by former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo on 16 percent, former Vice President German Vargas Lleras on 11 percent and attorney Humberto de la Calle on single digit.
For the first time in the country's history, there will be four women up for the vice presidential position: Duque' running mate Marta Lucia Ramirez, Petro's running mate Angela Maria Robledo, Fajardo's running mate Claudia Lopez and de la Calle's running mate Clara Lopez.
Colombians have largely stated that education, health, unemployment and inequality are major issues as they head to the polls to select a new head of state. Peace agreements with the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) or the National Liberation Army (ELN), according to preliminary polls, are of lesser importance to voters.
ELN has announced a ceasefire which will be in effect during the elections and more than 150,000 security personnel will be deployed to ensure a peaceful electoral process.
About 100 international observers are expected to oversee the voting. Eight European parliament members were selected to be among the monitors of the election process. The delegation includes Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Pilar Ayuso, Juan Fernando Lopez and Ana Miranda (Spain); Jose Inacio Faria (Portugal); Marie Arena (Belgium); Giulia Moi (Italy); and Andre Elissen (The Netherlands).
“The European Union (EU) reiterates its firm commitment to Colombia, to the institutions and will continue to work for a country committed to democracy, development and reconciliation,” EU Ambassador Patricia Llombart stated in a press release.
Amid widespread concerns of possible electoral fraud, several observers, as well as popular leftist candidate Gustavo Petro, had called for increased monitoring of the voting process.
"Starting at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 27, all people of Colombia Humana are called to assemble in all public squares of all municipalities because we will not allow election fraud. The people's monitoring is what can save Colombia's elections," Petro was reported as saying by El Pais.
Additionally, on Thursday, the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) urged all political parties "to prepare themselves for the monitoring of the... elections with adequately trained electoral witnesses," the El Pais reported.
The mission added that "no progress was made in conducting an independent and comprehensive audit" that could prevent computer fraud.
A second-round of voting is scheduled – for the two top finisher – for June 17, if no candidate wins 50 percent or more of the vote. Following the declaration of the winner, the new president will begin a four-year tenure in August.