BOGOTA – The head of the OAS Electoral Oversight Mission for the presidential balloting this Sunday in Colombia, Kevin Casas, urged candidates to lower the aggressive tone of their speeches and avoid making politics just another way to continue the conflict.
“It is relevant to call on political parties to lower the tone a little and not allow something to happen that would be very unfortunate for this country, which after ending the armed conflict would make politics a continuation of the war by other means,” Casas said in an interview with EFE.
The Colombian presidential campaign heated up last week due to complaints by leftist candidate Gustavo Petro of the Humane Colombia movement and who is second in the surveys, and who believes that “a fraudulent election is being cooked up” apparently to hurt him and benefit former Vice President German Vargas Lleras.
For his part, Vargas Lleras, who is running fourth in voter preference polls, feels certain of moving on to the second round, which, should it be necessary, will be held next June 17, and will result in his definitive victory.
“Let it hurt whoever it hurts, I will be in the second round and I will be president,” said Vargas Lleras, who has the support of the parties allied to the government.
In light of such a statement, Casas said that political debate in Colombia is a little “over the top” and creates a “climate of polarization,” which is being expressed in physical aggression against candidates and political representatives.
Casas, former vice president of Costa Rica and former OAS secretary for Political Affairs, added that a group of Mission experts is working at the headquarters of the National Civil Registry Office, a unit that organizes elections, checks the software to be used to count the votes, and whose security is questioned by Petro.
In that regard, the head of the OAS Mission said that “if there is any irregularity,” it will be cited in the group’s reports.
Meanwhile, Casas noted that these elections have shown significant progress compared with those of previous years, when the insecurity caused by guerrilla groups affected their normal procedures.
“The discussion about the electoral process has changed dramatically in the country and has changed for the better. We’re discussing the quality of elections, not whether it will be possible to hold them,” he said.
This change, he said, resulted from the peace accord signed by the govenrment and FARC guerrillas in November 2016, which transformed that armed group into a political party.