Sunday, March 20, 2022

Spanish tech firm embroiled in Colombian election mess


Spanish technology company Indra finds itself in the center of controversy after being involved in the recent Colombian legislative election where a difference of 7% was found between the preliminary count and the final count of the votes.

In the final count announced by the Registrar five days after the election, more than 400,000 new votes were found in favor of Historic Pact, the party of the candidate Gustavo Petro. The discrepancy resulted in the party going from from 16 to 19 senators to the detriment of the Conservative Party, the Green Alliance, and the Democratic Center, which lost one senator each.

The usual difference in most Latin American countries that have preliminary results systems ranges from 0.5% to 1%. In Colombia, the difference between the two counts had never been greater than 1%.

The unusual discrepancy in the results comes as the South American country is gripped by political tension and is feared to erode perceived electoral integrity, an ominous development ahead of the looming presidential elections.

In these cases, international election watchdogs advise electoral officials to declare as clearly and precisely as possible the origin of these discrepancies, in order to ensure that public confidence in the system is maintained. Contrary to this, the Colombian Registry has not given clear answers. Currently the Registrar is being harshly questioned by various political sectors that demand answers, including Senator María Fernanda Cabal, and former President Andrés Pastrana.

Suspicions stemmed from the questionable hiring of Indra on December 29, 2021, while the country was on a break for the holidays. In a bidding process that the Registrar's Office had initially declared void, Indra competed with itself and received the contract to oversee the preliminary counting software at the national level.

Questions deepened after Gustavo Petro and two senior Indra officials had a meeting in Madrid, presumably brokered registrar Alexander Vega. The clandestine meeting was exposed by former president Andrés Pastrana, who filed a disciplinary complaint with the Attorney General's Office against the registrar.

Today, just two months before the presidential elections, Colombia is facing a clamor for a total recount of votes by different political forces and demands for Alexander Vega to resign due to the irregular handling of contracts in the Registry.

Election experts fear this to be the worst legitimacy crises in the electoral process in decades and a stinging reminder of the need for the country to get serious in modernizing its electoral process. With the use of a modern and efficient voting system, Colombia could put an end to the decades-old problem of results manipulation as well as any problems related to ambiguous ballot markings.