Spanish – The discussion and approval of potential reform to the Electoral Code are advancing in the Colombian Congress. The initiative was presented by the Minister of the Interior, Alicia Arango; the national registrar, Alexander Vega; and the president of the National Electoral Council (NEC), Hernán Penagos.
The bill reached the legislature with a message of urgency. However, it has not yet been processed as quickly as it should have been. During the process, the speakers received more than 400 proposals that delayed the discussion and approval of the initiative. At this time, the only pending issue is the conciliation of the initiative so that it can go to presidential approval.
However, this process has not been free of controversy. Representative Gabriel Santos denounced one of these proposals, claiming that some members of Congress intended to restrict freedom of expression through the bill.
According to Santos, “it is one of the most harmful institutions of the Venezuelan regime (the NEC).” The controversy arises from an article in the bill. This article sought to prohibit any action tending to affect the good name, honor, or dignity of persons. Likewise, it sanctions for spreading false news against the good name and reputation of the parties.
For defenders of freedom, such as Gabriel Santos, this article could constitute censorship because it is not certain which institution would be responsible for exercising this control and under what parameters it would be decided what is and what is not false.
Santos had managed to have this article eliminated in the House of Representatives. Mysteriously, however, the article was revived in the debate in the Senate. So the Democratic Center congressman raised the alarm again.
He also denounced that there would be “nationalization of data, monopoly of contracting, implementation of electronic voting, digital vote counting, all done by the same contractor.” Thus the Colombian electoral system would resemble the model that prevails in the Venezuelan regime.
Estatización de datos, monopolio de contratación, implementación del voto electrónico, conteo digital de votos, todo lo hace el mismo contratista. ¿Cómo se va a garantizar el voto secreto si la Registraduría y su contratista sabrán cómo votó quién y en dónde?
— Gabriel Santos G. (@GabrielSantosCD) December 17, 2020
Another controversy that arose during the proceedings was that socialist Senator Gustavo Petro was seeking to change the rules to his advantage. Petro intended that significant groups be allowed to make alliances with parties. These alliances were intended to allow movements with few votes to cross the threshold in the elections. If this norm had been approved, it would have allowed the Colombia Humana movement, led by Senator Gustavo Petro, to be given legal status.
Fortunately, the congressmen did not approve this initiative, so Petro still has no chance of his small group of socialists becoming a political party.
The project has also been criticized by the Attorney General, Fernando Carrillo, and by the former Vice President, Germán Vargas Lleras. Carillo has put forward legal arguments that it does not meet the requirements to be called an electoral code.
Meanwhile, Vargas Lleras claims that with the new regulations, the race would be over for the career bureaucrats. It would allow senior officials to remove them from office on the grounds of lack of confidence without requiring any motivation.
The importance of reform
The world is experiencing tense moments due to the threats of electoral fraud that democracies could suffer. The socialist blocs have achieved electoral reforms that are beneficial to them.
The discussion of this project has been full of controversy. This reform will be the legal framework that will regulate the next elections in Colombia. Therefore, if clear rules are not established, the individual and economic freedoms of citizens may be jeopardized.
For the time being, we are studying the possibility of convening an extraordinary session of Congress to obtain approval of the reform. The hope is that the conciliation process will correct these errors, which could endanger democracy. If this is not done, the country would be risking outbreaks of violence in the next elections due to the uncertainty of the electoral model and lack of transparency.