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News > Latin America

Colombia's Anti-Corruption Refrendum: What Now?

  • Man votes at a polling station in a seven-question referendum on anti-corruption measures in Bogota, Colombia August 26, 2018.

    Man votes at a polling station in a seven-question referendum on anti-corruption measures in Bogota, Colombia August 26, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 August 2018

After the seven-questions referendum failed to meet the 12.1 million thresholds, the approval of the measures is in the hands of the Colombian Congress and Presidency.

More than 11.6 million Colombians went to the polls Sunday to participate in the anti-corruption consultation, according to data provided by the National Registry of Civil Status.

Colombia Fails To Pass Anti-Corruption Consult

Voters had to answer if they agreed with seven anti-corruption proposals, which included cutting the salaries of members of Congress, toughening penalties for corrupt business people or companies and forbidding them from resigning contracts with the state, among others.

However, the popular consultation required the participation of at least one-third of the voters (ie 12,140,342) so that Congress would be forced to comply with it. Now, that it failed to become bidding, other means must be used to approve the measures.

How did the referendum supporter react to the results

Claudia López, the former senator and candidate for vice president who sponsored the initiative, congratulated Colombians for their totally free and conscientious support.

Meanwhile, former presidential candidate Gustavo Petro said that "the consultation has been a success."

"Corruption has an economic base, it is not only ethical and that base has exploded in the last 40 years from drug trafficking; and lately with the great royalties of coal and oil; and that has degraded the Colombian political class," Petro told the press when he cast his vote in the referendum.

What happens now?

Despite not reaching the minimum number of votes needed, Lopez said that next Tuesday she will present to President Ivan Duque and Congress a legislative proposal that includes the "seven mandates" submitted to a vote.

"Today, Colombia has taken a historic step with the only incentive of its conscience: today we are launching the Constitution of 91 and we demonstrate that free voting can defeat corruption," Lopez said after hearing the results.

Now it will be the legislature, dominated by the Democratic Center, which opposed the consultation, along with strong opposition from center and left parties, who will have to assess whether they ratify the will of the more than 11 million Colombians who voted in favor of the measures.

In the case that the Colombian Congress fails to approve the measures, the last resort for their approval would be a presidential decree by Duque, who has expressed mild support for the referendum.

The president has said he will present, together with the country’s Attorney General, "a draft law, which, among others, will establish the criminal liability of legal entities to toughen sanctions on companies that seek to corrupt officials "

More votes for the consultation than for Duque

Political observers pointed out that the results of the consultation show that more people supported a clampdown on corruption than the 10 million who voted for Duque and higher than the eight million who voted for Petro in the presidential election a few months ago.

It arguably shows the popular position around the need for change in a country plagued by corruption and a ruling political class incapable of representing the people.

The scale of corruption in Colombia is enormous. According to the Comptroller General Edgardo Maya corruption has cost the country almost US$16 billion from state and public money. A study published in August estimates that the problem amounted to 4 percent of GDP between 1991 and 2011.

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