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  • Gustavo Petro (back) during the presidential debate on May 10.

    Gustavo Petro (back) during the presidential debate on May 10. | Photo: EFE

Published 12 May 2018

A U.S.-based non-profit will check the electoral software to prevent security flaws that allowed the elimination of hundreds of thousands of votes in the 2014 elections.

A delegation of international election observers, including the United States-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), will oversee Colombia’s presidential elections scheduled for May 27 as concerns over possible election fraud continue to grow. 

Irregularities, Fraud Allegations Mar Colombian Elections

Colombia’s National Electoral Council agreed to let IFES and other observers review the electoral process including the software used after calls from members of public and concerns expressed by candidates including progressive  Gustavo Petro. The requests for a review of the software used during the process stem from a complaint related to security flaws that allowed the elimination of hundreds of thousands of votes in the 2014 congressional elections.

On that occasion, the National Civil Registry failed to patch the security flaws. This year, during the March 11 legislative elections there were several reports of irregularities, including people casting their vote using photocopies because the registry had failed to print enough official ballots. There have also been allegations of vote buying outside polling stations.

Earlier this week the National Civil Registry admitted that it failed to update Petro’s campaign logo, which will appear on the ballot for the May 27 elections, despite a request from his campaign. The failure prompted the resignation of José Asdrúbal Zapata, the National Election Management Chief, after the body admitted to failing to process the request to update the logo. 

Alejandra Barrios, the Chair of the Coordinating Committee of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM), commented on the concerns during an interview on RCN Radio stating: “When a candidate feels he doesn’t have guarantees you have to surround him with guarantees and make sure he receives all necessary answers.”

“The most delicate issue is the scrutiny software. If [calling in the help of IFES] generate confidence, all candidates will accept the results” of the elections.

IFES is a non-profit dedicated to promoting free and fair elections. 

Media reports highlight the presence of former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who has been campaigning for Petro’s main rival Ivan Duque, on the board of the IFES as one issue of concern. Duque, a protege of former president and staunch peace process detractor Alvaro Uribe, continues to lead the presidential poll. A poll by Cifras & Conceptos revealed Thursday 34 percent of voters say they will vote for Duque, that is 1.5 percent points less than the same company’s April survey.

Petro, who is the former mayor of Bogota is placed in second with 22.5 percent.

The result of the Cifras & Conceptos polls gives Petro 7.6 percent point less than the survey published by the Latin American Centre for Strategic Geopolitics (CELAG) earlier this month.

All polls place centrist Sergio Fajardo in third place with between 13 and 17 percent of voters saying they will vote for him.

Despite calls to form a united candidacy between Petro, Fajardo and Humberto de la Calle, all of whom support the ongoing peace process, this alliance hasn't materialized. Analysts have predicted both Duque and Petro will enter the second round of vote scheduled for June 17.

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