Colombia's National Electoral Council (CNE) Wednesday ruled against a decision earlier in the day by the Superior Court of Bogota ordering both presidential candidates (Rodolfo Hernández and Gustavo Petro) to hold a debate prior to the runoff where Iván Duque's successor is to be chosen.
The commotion for the realization of a debate between Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandez took a new path. The National Electoral Council (CNE) pronounced itself
In response to a petition filed by former Congresswoman Ángela María Robledo, who claimed that the candidate for the League of Anti-Corruption Rulers (Hernández) had violated the electoral guarantees of the citizens by refusing to attend these spaces in the second round, the CNE determined that requesting a presidential candidate to attend these debates had no grounds whatsoever.
The norm does not impose to the candidates the obligation to carry out electoral debates, but it makes it possible for them to do so, presenting the respective joint request before the media system, with the fulfillment of the foreseen requirements, the CNE found. The norm does not establish that such activity is mandatory, hence, requesting the presidential candidate to attend these does not have any basis. In other words, debates are a right candidates have, not an obligation.
Hernández, a former mayor of Bucaramanga, had declined his participation in second-round debates, saying he preferred to communicate his proposals through interviews and social media.
The CNE also highlighted that if candidates wish to hold a debate, they must make a joint request.
Prior to the CNE's decision, the Superior Court of Bogotá had ordered Hernández and leftwing Senator Gustavo Petro to organize and attend a debate ahead of the June 19 elections. The Court argued that without a debate Petro and Hernandez would be violating Article 40 of the Political Constitution, which grants citizens the right to participate in the shaping of political power through, for example, presidential debates, which are a right of the candidate to expose his ideas, but at the same time a duty before the social conglomerate, a viewpoint which the CNE failed to share.
Members of Petro's legal team insisted any candidate not following the court's order could incur disobedience, a crime that might entail punitive measures.