Elections 2022: Political tension soars in Colombia: accusations of electoral fraud lead to vote recounting | International

The president of the National Electoral Council, Doris Ruth Méndez, and the National Registrar, Alexánder Vega, this Monday in Bogotá.
The president of the National Electoral Council, Doris Ruth Méndez, and the National Registrar, Alexánder Vega, this Monday in Bogotá.Carlos Ortega (EFE)

The inconsistencies in the vote count for the legislative elections, which in principle did not count 400,000 votes from the Historical Pact, the left-wing coalition led by Gustavo Petro, continue to escalate the tension in the Colombian elections. After a week of complaints of electoral fraud and Álvaro Uribe’s express call not to accept the results, President Iván Duque requested a general recount of the ballots.

And this Monday, a holiday in Colombia, the national registrar Alexander Vega, the target of all criticism for the irregularities, joined the request to recount the votes of the Senate. The decision will have to be made by the National Electoral Council, which will participate in a meeting of electoral guarantees this Tuesday; but Vega’s request has already caused alarm in different parties that are also calling for his resignation.

“What the registrar does today is now called fraud. The chain of custody of the votes ended on Saturday. At this time they may be filling the ballot bags. They disobey the decision of 5,000 judges. We are facing a true coup promoted by Uribe,” said presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, whose coalition won 19 seats in Congress over the 13 won by the Democratic Center, the government party founded by Álvaro Uribe.

Confidence in electoral transparency has been shaken in the last week, but it is a process that has been deteriorating for months. During the week after the elections, both the national electoral observation mission and that of the European Union confirmed “atypical behavior in the results” that mostly affected the Historical Pact. “The discrepancy between the results of the pre-count for the Senate and those produced by this first stage of the scrutiny has been unusually large. Especially for some parties and coalitions”, added the EU mission.

The inconsistencies ranged from crossing out the forms filled out by the voting jurors (who are citizens chosen at random by a database), manipulation of the data, in some cases, and a problem in the design of the forms and the lack of transmission of the numbers that corresponded to certain parties. The registrar attributed the irregularities to errors by the voting juries. “The instruction given to the jurors was to put an asterisk next to the vote, we have official information that several political groups and the jurors themselves did not comply with what was ordered in the training”, he said. “There are erasures in the forms and this generates inaccuracies in the pre-count, but the votes are there,” he added this Monday.

Indeed, after the evidence of the absence of votes that flooded social networks, political leaders like Petro reported having recovered at least 486,000 votes that had not been initially reported. In this way, Congress was reconfigured and the Historical Pact went from 16 to 19 seats, becoming the largest bench in the Senate.

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Given this fact, Uribismo, whose party lost power in Congress and went from being the first to the fifth political force in the Senate, suggested that this recovery of votes from the left was suspicious and that the Democratic Center also lost votes. in areas usually controlled by the ruling party. Both former president Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana pointed out the existence of electoral fraud and insisted on reopening the ballot boxes.

Facing the first presidential round, in two months, the atmosphere is heated in elections where the left appears among the first places in the polls and the government party does not have its own candidate and faces a decline. Vega assured that there was no fraud and that “transparency” is guaranteed for May 29.

“We are in a delicate situation. Nobody believes in the result of the pre-count, neither Petristas nor Uribistas. Uribe asks not to know the result, which is irresponsible,” said Humberto de La Calle, a former peace negotiator and senator-elect. “The idea of ​​recounting the votes that are there has arisen, it is very difficult to oppose that, instead it seems very serious for democracy that the doubt that exists today is prolonged indefinitely ahead of the May and June elections” added De la Calle, who asks for an audit and international presence.

But Vega’s request has already caused effects in the presidential elections. The center candidate, Sergio Fajardo, said that the recount should not only be done for the Senate but also for the House of Representatives and “with all rigor.” “The electoral chaos generated by the failures of the Registry affected confidence in the transparency of the presidential elections. It is also required to adopt additional measures for May.

Meanwhile, Petro reported that he will not attend electoral debates “until the transparency of the vote is guaranteed.” The left-wing candidate said that he will act with prudence pending the action of international oversight and insisted that “at this time there is no transparent chain of custody over the votes that have already been counted,” which are in the hands of the National Electoral Council “of Uribe majority”.

This Tuesday, after the meeting of the electoral guarantees commission, it will be known if the country will recount the ballots that have caused so much distrust and fear in the face of the presidential elections.

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