Colombia legislative elections bring irregularities, election fraud

Colombia’s legislative elections sparked chaos as voters reported a shortage of ballots and official observers fielded more than 1,200 reports of irregularities.

People line up to vote in the legislative election in Medellin, Colombia. Photo by Luis Eduardo Noriega/EPE-EFE
People line up to vote in the legislative election in Medellin, Colombia. Photo by Luis Eduardo Noriega/EPE-EFE

The Electoral Observation Mission, which deployed nearly 3,400 observers, said that although Sunday’s elections were the most peaceful since 2007, voting irregularities dominated the day.

On Sunday alone, the Mission received 1,290 reports of irregularities, including vote-buying and illegal propaganda, from inside polling stations. Another 213 reports of irregularities were received in the weeks leading up to election day.

The most glaring issue of the day, the sudden shortage of ballots, prompted electoral authorities to authorize the photocopying of ballots or to acquire extras from other polling stations.

Both left-wing and right-wing candidates claimed their primary ballots had run out, including in major cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cali.

“There were a fixed amount of ballots printed but they turned out to be insufficient,” the Electoral Observation Mission’s Andres Gomez said, adding the lack of ballots was due to a “calculation problem.”

Sunday’s election gave ex-president Álvaro Uribe’s Democratic Centre party the most seats.

Leftist candidate Gustavo Petro had received nearly 85 percent of the votes to represent his side over rival Carlos Caicedo. On the right, conservative Iván Duque had taken more than two-thirds of the votes to beat out challengers Martha Lucía Ramírez and Alejandro Ordoñez.

Petro and Duque will represent their coalitions in Colombia’s upcoming presidential election in May.

Nearly 800,000 voters rejected all options available to them on their ballot. Nearly 15 million votes were cast overall, marking less than third of Colombia’s population.

By Sara Shayanian