About half of Colombia's 24 million eligible voters went to the polls on March 10 to elect a new legislature. More than 8,000 candidates were running for 102 Senate seats and 166 lower-house seats. Results were disappointing for the traditional parties and pointed to a possible first-round victory for independent right-wing candidate Alvaro Uribe in the May 26 presidential elections.
Just over 40% of the country's 23 million registered voters went to the polls, down from 45% in the 1998 congressional elections. Despite threats of violence, one of the main reasons for the high abstention seemed to be voter apathy toward a Congress considered corrupt and inefficient.
Corruption scandals, including one in early 2000 in which members of Congress were found to have signed bogus multimillion-dollar contracts, have turned off voters.
Just before the elections, the government prosecutor's office reported that 100 of the 8,453 candidates have criminal records--which will automatically disqualify them for office if elected.
The opposition Partido Liberal lost space in the 102-seat Senate, winning 29 seats, 19 less than it took in the 1998 elections. The governing Partido Conservador also lost ground, dropping from 15 to 13 seats. Nearly 60% of the upper house will be …