Voting in an atmosphere of less violence and more participation sounds good. But not necessarily. Colombia's Misión de Observación Electoral argues that in the western Valle department these elements demonstrate the strength of narcotraffickers. There was a huge surge of registered voters, and they voted for the Partido de Integración Nacional (PIN), which is the new party tied to former members of Congress jailed for connections to paramilitaries. The MOE's conclusion is that the campaigns are largely being funded by narcotraffickers and that at least in Valle the results are illegitimate.
Laura Carlsen notes similar problems, particularly vote buying and the strength of paramilitary groups:
There is a certain fetishism of the ballot box when it comes to defining democracy. In Colombia, huge numbers of citizens don’t vote because the candidates provoke nausea or indifference, can’t vote because either the government erased their names from the roster or paramilitary forces have ordered them to stay home, or only vote as a matter of survival or intimidation.
As Steven Taylor has noted in his book, Colombia is an electoral democracy but not a liberal one. What the MOE's report shows is that we need to be careful even about how to measure "progress." Sometimes a lack of violence just means that everyone is too intimidated to resist at all.