A referendum that sought to curb rampant corruption in Colombia’s congress failed on a knife’s edge on Sunday after voters failed to turn out. Of Colombia’s 36.4 million voters, less than 12 million cast votes, leaving the referendum 500 thousand votes short for it to be declared valid. The citizens who did vote, overwhelmingly approved the seven anti-corruption measures. More than 99 percent of the voters who did turn up approved the measures. Colombia’s rampant corruption is one of the most common grievances in the South American country, yet it failed to mobilize enough voters to address the problem that is bleeding the national treasury. According to the country’s Inspector General some 10 percent of the national budget gets lost through corruption every year.
The referendum was promoted by anti-corruption advocates mainly from the center and the left, but met with conservative opposition and countered by major disinformation campaigns.
President Ivan Duque said he supported the referendum, but confusingly also proposed alternative measures. Duque’s political patron, controversial former President Alvaro Uribe, used Duque’s provisional proposals to successfully promote abstention.
Uribe, a former Medellín Cartel associate and the leader of Duque’s Democratic Center party, led the push to quash voter turnout in what has been heralded as the “dirtiest campaign in history.”