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  • A man walks along a street with an electoral poster ahead of the local election in Bogota, Colombia October 24, 2019.

    A man walks along a street with an electoral poster ahead of the local election in Bogota, Colombia October 24, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 October 2019
Opinion

Seven candidates have been killed, a dozen attacked and more than 100 threatened, says voting rights group the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE).

Colombians went to polls Sunday to choose provincial governors, mayors and regional legislators in elections that could influence the 2022 presidential contest, following campaigning marred by violent attacks on candidates.

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Colombian President Ivan Duque Sunday asked his countrymen to vote "conscientiously" in the elections. 

As soon as the polling stations were opened, Duque exercised his right to vote at the polling station installed at the National Capitol, where he arrived in the company of Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez, and the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez.

A total of 36.8 million people are eligible to vote in Sunday's elections. 

According to the country's electoral authorities, 11,590 voting centers were installed across in 26 departments and 190 municipalities in the country.

Colombians will elect a total of 1,101 mayors, 32 governors, 1,101 municipal councils, 32 departmental assemblies and 1,040 local administrative boards.

Unlike last year's presidential elections, when voters largely split between left and right-wing candidates, President Ivan Duque's Democratic Center party and leftist parties will have only limited wins, said Ariel Avila of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation think tank.

"Everything seems to indicate that political machines have aligned, organized and political clans will win," he said.

Seven candidates have been killed, a dozen attacked and more than 100 threatened, says voting rights group the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE).

That compares with the five candidates killed in the last round of regional and local elections in 2015.

"Local elections are really where political power in this country is in play," said the MOE's Alejandra Barrios. "They are the start, what structures the next elections, which are legislative and presidential."

The elections would show the power of political clans, she added.

Colombia's best-known clan is the Char family of business tycoons who dominate politics in the coastal province of Atlantico and its capital, the port city of Barranquilla.

Their candidates have held the mayor's office for more than a decade and their current pick is leading the polls.

The diverse local alliances backing candidates make the election "atypical", Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez told Reuters, adding that about 142,000 police and military will safeguard Sunday's voters.

"Whoever has control of the mayor's office or the province has a 50% probability of leaving a successor because of the levels of contracting and the economic resources that gives," Avila said.

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