Victims of Colombia’s conflict to head to Congress after Sunday’s vote
Colombians in regions hard hit by nearly six decades of fighting will elect victims of the conflict for the first time on Sunday to serve as special legislators in Congress, fulfilling part of the terms of a 2016 peace accord.
Nearly 39 million people are eligible to vote in contests to fill 108 Senate seats and 187 lower house seats, as well as to enter one of three primaries for presidential candidates ahead of a vote in May for the new leader of the country. But residents of the rural jungle and mountainous areas where fighting between left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitary groups, drug gangs and the military have been felt the hardest will also be able to choose 16 victim representatives.
The so-called victims’ seats, which will exist for two legislative terms, were agreed under the government’s peace accord with the left-wing rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) six years ago, but n have not yet been implemented due to a series of legal disputes. The Constitutional Court said last year that the filling of seats should continue. Applicants must present a document from the Colombian Victims Unit certifying that they have suffered as a result of the conflict.
“It’s a new unprecedented process,” Colombia’s national registrar Alexander Vega told Reuters on Thursday. “We respect the peace agreement.” Residents of 167 municipalities in provinces like Arauca, Choco, Norte de Santander and Cauca will elect the 16 representatives at nearly 2,000 polling stations, Vega said.
Some 240,000 members of the armed forces will be deployed across the country to ensure the normal conduct of the ballot at the 12,635 polling stations, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios told reporters this week. “Everything is available for the elections to take place with guarantees of security and transparency,” Palacios said, adding that the vote counting systems have been strengthened against possible cyberattacks.
The new FARC political party, which has had little success since its electoral debut in 2018, has 10 guaranteed seats in Congress until 2026 under the terms of the peace accord. Colombian President Ivan Duque is barred from running for a second term in the May elections.
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