In Colombia, it’s easy to tell when election season is in full swing. Potholes are suddenly filled with cement, stretches of roads are paved and local officials rush to inaugurate often unfinished public buildings. It’s one way to show that public funds have been well spent under their watch as a way of helping the political party they represent to do well at the polls. Election campaign posters and pamphlets stuffed in postboxes say “no to corruption” and “public funds are sacred”. Yet election-rigging scandals, allegations of election fraud and vote-buying are an all too common feature of the political landscape in Colombia. In Colombia’s parliamentary, local and presidential elections over the decades, local media have reported ineligible voters casting ballots, including some using fake or stolen identity cards, and tampered electoral registers that include the names of dead citizens or have names listed twice.
In past elections, local camera crews in slum areas have shown how votes are exchanged for a plate of meat, rice and plantain, or for bricks, roof tiles and other building materials. Local media have reported votes being allegedly bought for around $15 a go.
There’s also the so-called “pregnant ballot box”, which involves extra ballots being included to boost the vote tally for a particular candidate.
Free buses are known to transport people to polling stations on the condition they cast their vote for a particular candidate.
In the run up to election day, candidates are also known to deliver food parcels door-to-door in poor areas and throw lavish street parties in the hope of getting more votes.
And there are always claims being made about some candidates having alleged ties to illegal armed groups and drug traffickers.