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Elections: Colombia will not recount the votes of the legislative elections | International

Interior Minister Daniel Palacios (l) and the National Registrar of Civil Status, Alexander Vega (r) hold a meeting with members of the Electoral Guarantees Table, in Bogotá (Colombia).
Interior Minister Daniel Palacios (l) and the National Registrar of Civil Status, Alexander Vega (r) hold a meeting with members of the Electoral Guarantees Table, in Bogotá (Colombia).Carlos Ortega (EFE)

Colombia will not recount the votes of the Senate. The decision deflates a controversy that has not stopped growing since the elections were held on Sunday the 13th, and that has called into question all Colombian institutions. The president, Iván Duque, and the national registrar publicly requested a recount of the votes, something unprecedented in the country’s history and not contemplated in the electoral law. The public requests of both fed the denunciations of fraud that, from the right and the left, followed the electoral day. The National Electoral Commission met this Tuesday to make a decision, but the registrar retracted at the last minute and announced that he will not officially present the request for a new count.

“It is not possible to continue talking about electoral fraud in Colombia. We are going to improve the pre-count and the transmission of information”, assured the national registrar, Alexander Vega Rocha. The decision settles the possibility of reopening the bags where the votes are kept, but leaves a feeling of suspicion in public opinion fed from the high powers of the State. The Colombian elections have not been spared from the discrediting process experienced by other democracies, such as the United States during the last White House elections.

Although here there is some basis for suspicion. On election night, almost 500,000 votes for the left were not counted. The Historical Pact, the movement headed by Gustavo Petro, the favorite in the polls to preside over the country from August, denounced that in 29,000 polling stations he had added zero votes, something statistically very unlikely. The OAS electoral mission noted a series of “atypical behaviors.” A new scrutiny identified those missing votes due to an error in the design of the forms. Other parties such as the New Liberalism or the Green were also affected. Corrected that problem, the left went from having 16 senators to 19 and touched three million voters.

The right reacted vehemently. Former President Andrés Pastrana, a regular propagator of hoaxes on the networks, slipped without evidence that the registry figures “reeked of fraud” and asked the government to hire two independent international firms to carry out a forensic analysis of the process. Pastrana fueled last year the theory of a fraud in the presidential elections in Peru that turned out to be false. Álvaro Uribe did the same. His party, the Democratic Center, has gone from being the first to the fifth force in the Senate.

Petro also questioned the results, despite the fact that the new count favored him. The situation became tense to the max. Despite the fact that there is no section of the law that protects him, President Duque criticized the irregularities of the registrar and asked that the electoral guarantees commission meet. Had to recount. Vega himself believed that it was a good idea, given the paranoia of fraud that had settled in all political forces.

Then a new problem arose: who could ensure that the bags where the votes are kept had not been opened and modified? Petro reacted forcefully on Twitter: “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 real coup d’état promoted by Uribe”.

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Ultimately no such thing will happen, the results will stay as they are. “We have one of the most complex electoral systems in Latin America,” explains Mónica Pachón, a doctor in political science. “It is a system full of special constituencies, open and closed lists. And a very primitive tool design, very little elaborate. There is a nullity of up to 20%, very high. This error that has occurred now is serious because it affects the party that is winning and all the leaders take the opportunity to question the results. That said, the recount is unconstitutional and made no sense at all.”

The suspicion, however, remains and questions the reliability of the institutions. The electoral year in Colombia arrives loaded with high tension.

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