Saturday, March 13, 2010

Voting Rules (Part I)

It's the first of several election weekends here in Colombia which means that Cali turns into a very different place for two days. Beginning at 6pm on Friday, for example, the sale of alcohol is prohibited, thus turning the entire country dry. I don't recall "inebriated voting" being an issue in the States, but perhaps, it wouldn't hurt things! There are also several other rules in effect such as the weekend law that does not allow two people to ride on a motorcycle together, unless it is a man and woman. This is due to assassination attempts where one man drives and the other shoots; women, evidently, are not seen seen as potential assassins.

Compared to the US, election season is not nearly as obnoxious in Colombia. There are not a myriad non-stop bombardment of campaign ads on television, one after another for six months or more leading up to election day. I have received only one campaign flier under my door, despite the multitude of candidates running for several offices. Most of the propaganda seems to be relegated to banners stretched across the major thoroughfares, billboards, posters around telephone poles, and the occasional internet pop-up ad. Of these, the only information seems to be the candidate's name, picture, party, and possibly an innocuous slogan like "Por un pais justo" (For a just country) or "Todos al frente con el Presidente" (All in front with the President); public political mudslinging is either veiled or non-existent.

This weekend is the Congressional elections and preliminaries for several other races, including the parties running for President. Two-term current President, Álvaro Uribe, was denied a constitutional referendum for a third term at the end of February. The first official round of Presidential voting will be in May. The way it was explained to me by Colombian colleagues at school was that there will be subsequent elections every two weeks after that until a candidate receives at least fifty percent of the vote. That could potentially mean a lot of weekends where the bars and clubs are dark and people are stocking up on cervezas, ron, and aguardiente!

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