Local government elections today
Around 31 million Colombian electors will vote today between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. in local elections.
The elections are for 18,177 governors, mayors and city council members in 32 states and 1,102 municipalities. There are more than 100,000 candidates standing across the country.
The election has been more violent than in 2007, with 41 candidates having been assassinated, against 27 in 2007. A lot is at stake with FARC and criminal gangs especially wanting to ensure that their candidates get elected so that they can control local affairs. Governors and mayors control large local budgets, around $12 billion across the country, and contracts for local authorities. More than 80 candidates have received death threats and 447 candidates were deemed ineligible because they were facing criminal charges.
In the capital, Bogota, with a population of 8 million, people will be voting for a new mayor. The post has been described as the second most important elected post in the country after the president. The frontrunner is socialist candidate Gustavo Petro who, according to a last minute Gallup Colombia poll, has 36.7% of the vote. His closest rivals are two centrist candidates, Enrique Peñalosa a former mayor on 21.3%, and Gina Parody on 20.2%.
In Medellin, the second largest city with around 3.3 million people, the contest has been closely fought between Anibal Gaviria who is on 36.5% and Luis Perez, an Independent, on 37.8%.
In the third major city, Cali (Santiago de Cali) with a population of 2.5 million, Rodrigo Guerrero who was mayor between 1992 and 1995 is expected to win easily.
The elections will not have a great bearing on the national scene since many of the contests are run as local alliances between political parties with a large number of independents also running. There are some instances where factions of the same party are running against each other in local contests.