about icg 
  Latin America 
  Middle East 
  by region 
  by date 
  by keyword 
  media releases 
  articles/op. eds 
  media contacts 
contact us 
donate to icg 

 home  programs  asia  cambodia (archived)
  Colombia election briefing

Bogotá/Brussels, 17 April 2002:: Colombia's 10 March parliamentary election once again took place in the midst of that nation's lengthy civil conflict. It failed to produce a new parliament that is likely to have much impact on solving the country's most pressing problem: the long-standing internal armed conflict. Nor did it address systemic problems of corruption and fraud.

ICG Colombia Project Director John Biehl del Rio said: "Few parliamentary candidates campaigned on national issues such as the peace process or comprehensive political reform. It is therefore likely that the next government's stance on peace or war will depend on the presidential election."

ICG's new briefing paper, The 10 March 2002 Parliamentary Elections in Colombia, notes that while the result was largely "business as usual" the most significant increase in support was for independents who are close to the "dissident Liberal" presidential candidate Álvaro Uribe. Uribe clearly leads the opinion polls ahead of the first round of the presidential election on 26 May. His emphasis on the need for the state to assert its authority, as well as for social and political reform has proved to be popular. Those candidates who aligned themselves with his views benefited most and would give him a loyal following in parliament.

The election highlighted two systemic problems that are serious obstacles to the democratic process in Colombia: the role of drug money in political campaigns and the influence of paramilitaries on the electoral process. Too little attention is being paid to the drug-related funds that are believed to buy considerable influence at key points in the Colombian state. A paramilitary leader also claimed immediately after the election that up to 35 per cent of parliamentarians are close to the paramilitary cause and will work in its favour. While this claim has not been proved, the Ministry of Interior has announced an inquiry into ties between parliamentarians and the AUC (United Self Defence Groups of Colombia).

The elections, which came barely weeks after the end of the peace process with the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo), were held in a tense atmosphere. In some departments candidates were prevented from campaigning freely due to intimidation by insurgents or paramilitaries. One candidate was assassinated, an election official was abducted and seven candidates kidnapped prior to the election have still not been released.

However, the deployment of 154,000 police and military personnel across the country kept disruption of the election itself to a minimum and turnout - which ICG estimates to be higher than the initial estimates of 42.3 per cent - was similar to previous years. The state worked hard to ensure the security of the election process, but there is room for improvement on transparency and integrity if the presidential vote is to enjoy full public and international confidence.


Katy Cronin (London) +
Sascha Pichler (Brussels) +32.2.536.00.70;
email: [email protected]
Heather Hurlburt (Washington) +1.202.408.80.12

All ICG reports are available on our website www.crisisweb.org


copyright privacy sitemap