Elections in a hurry: Your two-minute Colombia election guide

By bogotapost May 22, 2018

Let’s face it, not everybody is that interested in politics. Or you might not yet have got your head round Colombian politics. If so, we’re here to help with our two-minute Colombia election guide.

The first round of presidential elections will take place on May 27. It is extremely unlikely that any candidate will win outright (it’s been 12 years since that happened), so the top two candidates will then go head to head on June 17.

The presidential elections take place every four years, and this year – as with 2014 – election frenzy is likely to get overtaken by football frenzy as Colombia will play their first World Cup match on June 19.

Of the 30 plus candidates who threw their hats into the ring last year there are now only five contenders for the presidency. They have been campaigning on two levels: first, to win the hearts and minds of individual voters and second, to gain the support of political parties who have not fielded a candidate.

Presidential candidates either need to be endorsed by a party or to collect 355,933 signatures from Colombian citizens. Some of the parties and coalitions held primaries to decide who their candidate would be. Some candidates like Vargas Lleras chose to collect signatures and run independently – even though he had the backing of his party.

With less than a month to go, the big names of the country’s various political dynasties have pretty much aligned themselves with one candidate or another. The battle lines have been drawn on all the usual voter concerns of security, health, education, environment and the economy. Everybody has promised to be tough on corruption, though with accusations of cronyism and connections to corruption flying left, right and centre, voters would be forgiven for being cynical about some of those claims.

Peace is obviously a key issue. This is the first presidential election since the FARC demobilised and, as was to be expected, implementation of the peace deal has not been plain sailing. There’s only one candidate who is running on a ticket of making changes to the agreement, with the other four promising to honour the government’s commitments with varying degrees of passion.

Polls are notoriously unreliable, more so in a country as diverse and tight-lipped as Colombia.

If the Cambridge Analytica scandal hasn’t scared you off entering your information into online applications, find out which candidate aligns most closely with your views with ‘Elecciones Colombia 2018’ (available on the app store) or ‘Colombia Candidater’ for young people (sponsored by the German Embassy).

It is worth being aware that there are border restrictions on election weekends, so you may have trouble if you are planning to cross a land border. And if you are staying put, be aware that Ley Seca prohibits the sale of alcohol from the night before to the morning after an election, so best stock up in advance if you are having a vote-watching party.

– This article originally appeared in edition 54 of The Bogotá Post.