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OAS Mission Congratulates Colombian People on a Successful Election Day

  June 16, 2014

The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Colombia, led by former Costa Rican President José María Figueres, congratulates the Colombian people on the positive way yesterday’s elections unfolded.

The Mission especially congratulates the National Registry of Civil Status and the National Electoral Council for their good work in organizing the process. The OAS Mission also notes the willingness shown at all times by the National Election Coordination and Follow-Up Committee, coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, to resolve the main concerns of the candidates and their parties.

The OAS Mission hails the speed with which preliminary election results were presented, as more than 90% of the results were disseminated during the first hour of transmission. As in the first round, the release of this data was a significant achievement for the National Registry and has had a direct impact on the certainty and calm with which the results have been received.

The Mission highlights the democratic attitude shown by the presidential candidates and the members of their campaigns. During these last few weeks, they presented proposals and participated in debates to contrast their ideas, enabling citizens to exercise their right to cast an informed vote. The OAS Mission congratulates the winning candidate, Juan Manuel Santos, echoing the congratulations extended on Sunday night by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. The OAS Mission also notes that candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga was quick to recognize the results, an attitude that also helped create an atmosphere of calm among the people.

The Mission arrived in the country to observe the legislative elections held last March, as well as both rounds of the presidential election. Over the course of these months, a team of experts in electoral organization and technology, gender, campaign financing, election security, voting abroad, and electoral dispute resolution has been analyzing structural factors in the Colombian electoral system.

For this second round of the elections, the Mission had 74 international observers, who were deployed to 27 of the country’s departments and the Capital District and visited 464 voting centers. A team of experts was also present at the center the National Registry had set up to consolidate preliminary data.

The Mission also makes special note of the relevant role women played in these elections. According to observers’ reports, a high percentage of women participated as poll workers and as party poll watchers, which reflects their commitment to democracy in the country.

In keeping with a request made by the parties represented on the Election Follow-Up Committee, the Mission will keep a team of observers in the country to be present during the scrutiny process.

While there were some isolated incidents, the major security deployment made it possible for the voting to take place with few surpises for the candidates, polling officials, poll watchers, or voters. Once again the various security and law enforcement forces across the country implemented prevention plans and coordinated effectively to address the risks in this electoral process.

The OAS Electoral Observation Mission would like to stress that the electoral process that began with legislative elections in March unfolded successfully. However, the Mission would like to make certain recommendations geared toward improving the electoral process in Colombia.

The Mission once again observed that the partitions used in the voting do not guarantee the secrecy of the vote. It therefore reiterates a recommendation made by previous missions, to put into practice measures to provide more privacy to citizens when they are casting their ballots. The Mission also believes the infrastructure of the voting centers needs to be reviewed so as to facilitate access for people with disabilities.

One very positive aspect the Mission observed, compared with its observations during the first round, was a greater presence of poll watchers at polling stations from the time the polls opened until they closed. However, it is essential to improve the training of poll workers and incorporate into Colombian electoral legislation the possibility that they could be accredited to several different polling stations.

The Mission welcomes the fact that in this second round, the level of voter turnout increased by more than 7% over the first round held on May 25. However, the level of abstention continues to be relatively high. This is a complex challenge, one that must be addressed comprehensively, with all segments of Colombian society involved in the task, particularly its political parties and leaders. Strengthening civic awareness and citizen participation stands out as an extremely high priority for Colombian democracy.

In meetings held by the OAS Mission, one recurring concern was vote-buying. Any complaints with respect to this practice will be sent to the respective authorities. In order to provide disincentives to these practices, the Mission recommends strengthening mechanisms for accountability, governmental oversight, and transparency in the management of funds in campaigns, as well as establishing clear penalties and ensuring that these are rigorously enforced.

With regard to voting abroad, the Mission believes that providing an extended time for voting over several days carried with it the possibility that the results could be leaked in advance. In this regard, the Mission recommends that these procedures be reviewed. It also recommends strengthening the legal framework to include clear instructions on this matter in training manuals for consular employees and polling officials.

Once the electoral process has come to an end, the Mission will present a comprehensive report to the OAS Permanent Council, which will include observations and recommendations on structural issues aimed at strengthening the country’s electoral system. After that, the Mission will return to Colombia to present the same report to the country’s election authorities and political actors.

The Mission would like to thank the governments of Canada, South Korea, Spain, the United States, France, Israel, Peru, and Switzerland for their generous contributions that made it possible for this Mission to be deployed.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-259/14