Justice Henrique Neves and the advisor for international affairs of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE-AIN), Tarcísio Costa, followed the presidential elections in Colombia, held on May 25, as international observers.
The visit was part of a mission organized by the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), gathering representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. They monitored the entire voting process and formulated recommendations and observations, warning the electoral authorities on potential risks to the free exercise of voting rights. They also analyzed technical developments implemented by local electoral bodies.
Accompanied by the President of the National Electoral Court of Peru, Francisco Távara Córdova, and by Paraguay´s former minister of foreign affairs, Ambassador Leila Rachid, Justice Henrique Neves visited polling places and witnessed the commencement of vote counting activities in Corferias, Bogota.
According to him, the election observation mission is aimed at analyzing the voting process in place at the visited country, and “check whether people´s will was duly respected”. Henrique Neves noted that “there is always something new to be learned” and pointed to Colombia´s Universal Civil Registration Program.
TSE´s head advisor visited six different polling places and Colombia´s Data Processing Center, where he witnessed the preliminary counting of votes and the coverage that the press and party inspectors made of the event.
According to Tarcísio Costa, the TSE is invited to join electoral missions worldwide because of the acknowledged quality and high level of Brazil´s electoral process. The Court joined missions to numerous countries last year, including Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Venezuela and, more recently, Colombia.
Special missions, such as the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations (UNIORE) and the Organization of American States (OAS) were also organized to watch elections in Colombia.
Voting is not compulsory in Colombia, and despite the high abstention rate, which reached the highest level in 20 years (59.9%), Unasur pointed to the exemplary organization of presidential elections and complimented the institutional bodies responsible for its management and implementation.
Unasur´s electoral mission was back to Colombia to monitor presidential runoff, held on June 15.
The Union of South American Nations is a regional organization aimed at building a space for the cultural, social, economic and political integration of its members in a participatory and consensual manner.
The organization is formed by the twelve States of the sub-continent and its 400 million inhabitants. It had its Constituent Treaty signed in Brasilia in 2008 during the Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Heads of State and Government, and gained full effectiveness in March 2011, when Uruguay became the ninth country to ratify and submit its vote to the Secretariat General, which holds its headquarters in Quito, Ecuador. In October of the same year, the bloc was awarded an observer status at the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Unasur´s priorities include, inter alia, political dialogue, social policies, education, energy, infrastructure, financing and environment. The purpose of the organization is to ensure peace and security, to reduce social and economic inequalities, to promote social inclusion and popular participation, to strengthen democracy and to reduce asymmetries that may affect the process undertaken by its member States to strengthen sovereignty and independence.