Colombia anti-graft referendum falls just short of required votes | News | DW | 27.08.2018
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Colombia anti-graft referendum falls just short of required votes

A Colombian anti-corruption referendum fell just short of the required votes, but its supporters hope that politicians got the message. Of the 11.7 million who voted, 99 percent supported the proposals.

An anti-corruption referendum in Colombia failed to pass on Sunday after narrowly falling short of a required one-third quorum.

Nearly 11.7 million of nearly 36 million registered voters turned out to vote on seven measures designed to battle corruption and improve transparency. A threshold of 12.1 million voters was needed to make it binding.

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However, of those that cast a vote nearly 99 percent supported the proposals, sending a clear message to political elites that the public wants corruption to be taken seriously.

"We were five cents short, but this has shaken the traditional political class," Angelica Lozano Correa, a Green party senator who backed the measure told local radio. "Citizens want a real and genuine change in political practices."

Had the referendum passed, the measures would have slashed lawmakers' salaries, imposed a three-term limit and forced elected officials to publish their tax returns.

Other provisions would have applied stricter sentences for corruption offenses and banned alternative sentences like house arrest for graft. The proposal would have also targeted graft in the private sector by banning companies convicted of corruption from securing contracts from the public sector.

The new president, Ivan Duque, had supported the referendum although some in his conservative party were against it. 

In a televised speech, Duque called for lawmakers to support anti-corruption reforms.

"Together we'll defeat those who ransack public resources, together we'll build the future that Colombia deserves," he
said, urging citizens to also report corruption. 

Senator and Green Alliance leader Claudia Lopez, who led the push for the referendum, urged the government to take action. 

"This historic vote, this decisive victory by free citizens, gives a clear and strong mandate to the government and congress," she said. 

Turnout in Colombian elections are usually low. Voter turn out in the last election was 50 percent and a 2016 referendum to end a half-century war with FARC rebels only drew 13 million voters.

Corruption among politicians, officials and business is rampant, and implementation of existing laws is weak.

Colombia's inspector general has estimated the cost of corruption at around 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product each year.

Transparency International has found that nearly two-thirds of companies worry about losing business if they do not pay bribes.

cw/bw (AFP, AP, dpa)


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