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OAS: Mission that Observed Colombian Plebiscite Presented Report with Recommendations

  March 9, 2017

The Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) that observed last year's plebiscite in Colombia, today presented its final report to the Permanent Council of the institution, which highlights the effectiveness of the organization of the process and the speed of the announcement of results and recommends promoting greater participation.

The Chief of the Mission and former President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom, said in his presentation that “the Colombian electoral system responded in a satisfactory manner to an electoral event of singular characteristics, despite not having the ideal amount of time for planning.” Moreover, he highlighted the swiftness of the vote count, affirming that “The process for reporting preliminary election results was streamlined and expeditious, which positions Colombia as the fastest system in the region.”

The document presented to the members of the Council notes that the “time allowed for and rush to hold the plebiscite prevented including or carrying out some stages that are usually part of the electoral cycle, such as opening the voter registration lists to new registrations or accepting changes of residence.” Nevertheless, it highlights the effort made by the National Civil Registry, and the National Electoral Council for carrying out a successful event.

The report details recommendations on issues such as regulation of future processes, campaign deadlines and voter education, equity in the process, Election Oversight and Monitoring Commission, citizen participation and voter registration lists. In particular, the report regrets the low participation that has characterized the processes in the country and that was present in the October elections, where only slightly more than 37% of the electorate cast a vote. "As noted in past missions, we recommend developing initiatives to strengthen the role of the people in the democratic system, to include a broad debate to identify and attack the root causes of societal apathy in election processes,” the report reads.

In regards to the post-election stage, the Mission noted that "the outcome of the plebiscite reflected the importance of greater political dialogue to multiply efforts to reach and strengthen a lasting peace.” But the document stressed that, “despite the political polarization and tension that this plebiscite process created in Colombia, the members of the mission deployed throughout the country observed a peaceful atmosphere undergirded by respect”.

The Alternate Representative of Colombia to the OAS, Carmen Vázquez, said her country "recognizes the relevance of the Missions and the trust they generate in citizenship and in institutions and for that reason, we continually request their presence in our electoral processes, providing all the guarantees and tools and enabling the spaces that facilitate the exercise of their work."

Similarly, the National Registrar of Colombia, Juan Carlos Galindo, thanked the OAS for its continuing willingness to collaborate with Colombia in the organization and implementation of Electoral Missions. "It has been an important tradition within the preparation of the electoral processes that the OAS is present with the missions to see, observe and pronounce on the preparation and realization of the events," he said.

The Observation Mission deployed a team of 75 experts and observers from 20 nationalities in 25 departments of the country and the capital. On election day, they visited 420 polling stations from the opening to the counting of the ballots.

Reference: E-013/17