Colombia presidential election heads to runoff

By Daniel Uria and Ray Downs  |  May 27, 2018 at 3:37 PM
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May 27 (UPI) -- In Colombia, a conservative will run against a socialist in a runoff election this June after neither candidate reached 50 percent of the vote in the first national election since the government signed a peace agreement with the FARC rebel group.

Ivan Duque of the conservative Centro Democrático Party and Gustavo Petro of the left-wing Colombia Humana Party were the top two vote recipients on Sunday, with Duque getting 39 percent and Petro getting 25 percent. The runoff election will take place on June 17.

One of the two will replace the outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos after the end of his second and final term in office.

Sergio Fajardo, a center-left mathematician and former governor of Antioquia, finished a close third to Petro 23.7 percent of the vote.

Other candidates in the race Sunday included former housing minister German Vargas Lleras, who got 7.3 percent of the vote, and government peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle, wo ot just over 2 percent.

Former FARC rebel commander Rodrigo Londono was intended to be the group's first presidential candidate, but he withdrew after undergoing heart surgery and wasn't replaced.

FARC rebranded itself from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to a political group known as the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force in 2017 as a condition of the peace deal, negotiated by de la Calle. It was also guaranteed five seats in the Senate and five in the House of Representatives.

Duque who held a 10-point lead over Petro in the latest poll conducted by Yanhass led a campaign against the FARC deal and has promised to reverse some of its provisions if elected.

Petro -- who was part of the M-19 rebel group which also disbanded to become a political party in 1990 -- supported the deal called on citizens to "be free and change for good the history of Colombia."

Voters have placed their focus on economic issues in the country while most of the candidates focused their campaigns on inequality, unemployment, housing and ending corruption.

Santos called on voters to "participate massively, happily, and peacefully" and said all of the candidates presented "their proposals, ideas for Colombia in order to continue advancing, to progress, to build peace."

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