The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today received the verbal report of the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) that accompanied the first and second round of the presidential elections and the parliamentary elections in Colombia, conducted in May, June and March 2014.
The report was presented by the Head of the Electoral Observation Mission for the Legislative Elections, José Antonio Viera-Gallo, who in addition to presenting the observations and recommendations of the EOM’s, highlighted the civism demonstrated by citizens and the hope for peace expressed by political parties that participated in the process.
Referring to the legislative elections of March 9, the EOM highlighted the establishment for the first time of a mandatory quota of 30% of female candidates on the lists, describing it as a “significant step"; and remarked that in the Senate elections the representation of women increased from 16.6% to 21.6% and from 12.6% to 16.6% in the House of Representatives. It also valued the implementation of a biometric identification system as a positive aspect, despite the delays caused, because it allowed to prevent vote impersonation.
The EOM for the first round of the Presidential Elections on May 25, headed by former Costa Rican President José María Figueres Olsen, underscored an electoral process that "preserved and strengthened the safe climate experienced in the Legislative Elections," and stressed that, according to existing data, those elections were described as "the most peaceful in decades" and highlighted the speed with which the preliminary results were presented.
On the issue of security, the EOM underlined the establishment of a Unit for Immediate Reception for Electoral Transparency (URIEL), as "a significant step toward the inhibition of unlawful conduct during the elections and for the strengthening of electoral justice" and recommended to launch awareness campaigns on existing election-related crimes.
With regard to absenteeism, present in high levels in the three elections, "the EOM noted with concern that 59.9% of citizens did not vote in the first presidential round, a fact that indicates not only limited participation, but a significant decrease in turnout compared to previous elections," cites the report.
In referring to the presidential runoff, on June 15, the OAS Mission stressed the role and participation of women. "According to the reports of the observers, a high percentage of women joined as voting juries, and participated as witnesses of the parties," said the report, which also highlighted "the timely and effective action of the authorities in preserving a safe climate during the elections" in the face of some isolated incidents of violence.
Among its recommendations, the EOM indicated that "high levels of absenteeism in the three elections are an important sign of disenchantment among citizens about the electoral process", and called on political leaders, parties and electoral authorities "to launch a national effort to strengthen civic awareness and promote the suffrage."
The EOM also urged to promote gender equality in the lists for Congress and to increase efforts to tackle the difficulties and weaknesses in accountability for campaign financing. "The Mission recommends ensuring the necessary conditions for parties to open accounts in the banking system and to establish strong incentives and penalties to encourage the effective use of mechanisms of accountability and transparency," the report said.
After hearing the report, the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the OAS, Andrés González, thanked the Organization and the members of the Mission stating that "the OAS’s presence in Colombian elections has been a tradition since 1994, that is the reason why the Colombian government highly values the Organization’s inputs." He also added that such support "has helped us to identify strengths and areas where improvements are needed."
Ambassador Gonzalez highlighted the OAS commitment to the democratic progress of its member countries and emphasized that "the Organization’s contribution is the base for the Colombian government request to all candidates and political organizations to fully guarantee transparency, fairness and impartiality." In this regard, he thanked on behalf of the Colombian government the recommendations contained in the Mission’s report and praised the efforts of the OAS to structure the electoral Missions of 2014, "considering the commitments it already had in the same area with other countries in the hemisphere such as Costa Rica and El Salvador. "
During the session the representatives of the United States, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, Canada, Chile, Argentina and Peru, took the floor to thank the work of the OEM, and to congratulate Colombia for the elections, as well as the elected officials.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.