Election Universe

Colombia’s presidential election, beyond the peace process

Colombia’s presidential election, beyond the peace process
March 20 2018, 13:56

The three national elections scheduled in Colombia for 2018 are keeping election authorities quite busy.

The first round of elections were held on March 11, when citizens elected members of Senate and House Representatives. Later this month -on May 27- Colombia will hold the most awaited presidential race in years, with a runoff on June 17 if no candidate receives 50% of the votes.

These elections are likely to be crucial for the future of the country both from a political and socio-economic perspective. And the reason for that is, they will be the first national elections held after the peace process that ended with the legalization of rebel organisation FARC.

Colombia has a bicameral Congress. In the House of Representatives, out of the 166 members, the majority (162 seats) are elected by proportional representation from 33 multi-member constituencies based on Colombian geographical departments. These seats are distributed using the largest remainder method. Additionally, two (2) other members are elected by the Afro-Colombian community, one (1) by the indigenous communities, and another (1) by expats.

The Senate is comprised by 102 senators. A single country constituency appoints 100 members by proportional representation in the same way that the House of Representatives does, in addition to a two-seat constituency for indigenous Colombians.

As stated in the peace process agreement, FARC will have five members in the Senate and another five places in the House of Representatives.

During the March elections, 36,493,318 voters were registered, but only 17,827,762 Colombians participated for a turnout of 48.1%. The Election management officers are expecting this rate to increase for the presidential vote.

The Presidential elections, set for May 27, use a two-round system to select the winner. If no candidate gets the 50% of votes, then a second election with the top two candidates is held. According to the latest polls and analysis, the runoff election is the most likely scenario.

Currently, six candidates are representing a broad spectrum of political tendencies in the country. Favourites right-wing candidate Ivan Duque and his leftist competitor Gustavo Petro are strengthening their lead over their contenders, and they are the two most probable runners going into the second round.

The significant impact of the peace process on the election cycle is now filled with uncertainty. Candidate Rodrigo Londoño (former rebel commander Timochenko) exited the presidential race citing health problems, and nobody replaced him to run from the FARC party.

Another curious aspect of this election is the gender composition of the electorate. Women account for 52% of the voter (18,606,307 of the registered voters are women, and 17,419,011 are men).

Voting and counting will be done manually with voters marking their choice on a ballot and then depositing it on a box.