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News > Latin America

Irregularities, Fraud Allegations Mar Colombian Elections

  • Voters walk in a polling centre during the legislative elections in Bogota, Colombia March 11, 2018.

    Voters walk in a polling centre during the legislative elections in Bogota, Colombia March 11, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 March 2018

While some voting stations ran out of ballots, social media users also posted numerous videos showing alleged irregularities including vote buying.

Colombia's legislative elections and interparty primaries have created a stir in the South American nation, after major irregularities were reported by NGOs, candidates and social media users.

Live Updates: Colombia Polls Close, Irregularities Reported 

The Electoral Observer Mission (OEM) – which had warned of the risk of fraud in hundreds of municipalities in the run-up to the elections –reported numerous inconsistencies as videos surfaced on social media appearing to show vote-buying and other fraudulent activities.

"Unauthorized information desks" had been set up in front of polling stations in various towns "with lists of voters and transportation ready to receive them," the OEM said. 

The OEM also highlighted the lack of accreditation "generating protests": at least 141 towns registered more voters than inhabitants, especially in the provinces of Antioquia, Boyaca and Santander. In addition, 30 percent of voters surveyed by the mission said they could not cast their ballots in secret.

The National Civil Registry said ballots had run out in Medellin, Cucuta and Manizales, but voters could use photocopies: "An agreement was reached with the political parties and movements, due to the budget restriction and they authorized the continuation of the procedure with photocopies," said Juan Carlos Galindo.

Other users on social media also posted numerous videos showing alleged irregularities including vote buying.

Presidential frontrunner, Gustavo Petro, repeated Sunday that electoral authorities failed to organize the process with transparency, complaining about the shortage of cards for registered voters.

"We already knew that the office of registration was not capable of transparency in the elections," he told reporters after casting his vote in the south of Bogota.

The former mayor of the capital was surrounded by almost 100 people shouting: "I came here because they did not pay for my vote."

"The jury in polling offices have systematically denied left-wing voters the registration card," Petro said, noting that the lack of transparency will affect the election of left-wing and right-wing coalition candidates alike.

"It seems that both consults are being affected, not just mine, from the various complaints I've heard from members of the Democratic Center."

Posting on Twitter later, Petro said: "The E14 forms that report the results in the consultation will not be digitized online as required by law. 
"I denounced it before and now it becomes reality. Colombia is in fraud mode."

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, however, described Sunday's elections as "the most calm in the matter of electoral violence and public order in at least two generations of Colombians."

Yarumal, in Antioquia, was one of the municipalities that was classified as being at risk of fraud and violence, but Villegas said there had been no reports of either.


1. Vote Buying:

Users posted videos in which people identified with different parties gave out money to polling stations just before voting.

2. Photocopies:

The National Civil Registry head Juan Carlos Galindo reported that in the places where the cards for the consultations ran out, voters cast their ballot with a photocopy.

3. Hiding Ballots:

Supporters of Gustavo Petro say the ballots for the primaries of the"Social inclusion for peace" were hidden from voters, leaving only those of the right-wing coalition available to voters.

4. Not extending voting hours:

Despite all the irregularities that delayed the process, some voters had to leave without voting because of the lack of cards as polls closed at 4:00 p.m. local time.

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