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Colombia headed for run-off

May 26, 2014

Colombia's presidential poll that was billed as a referendum on peace talks with FARC rebels, has failed to yield a winner. Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos hopes to win in the runoff on June 15.

Juan Manuel Santos at the end of his campaign
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Oscar Ivan Zuluaga won 29.3 percent support and incumbent Juan Manuel Santos trailed on 25.6 percent, falling short of the 50 percent necessary for an outright victory. Zuluaga and Santos will face each other in a runoff on June 15.

More than 32 million people were eligible to vote in the election, in which the 62-year-old Santos was seeking a second four-year term.

The vote was widely seen as a referendum on the correct strategy for ending a 50-year conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than five million others.

Santos launched talks with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in 2012 after eight years of attempts to defeat the insurgency with military means. The talks have so far led to agreements of rural reform, the inclusion of former guerillas in politics and the fight against drug trafficking.

But there has not been a ceasefire during the negotiations in order to maintain pressure on the guerrillas.

55-year-old right-winger Zuluaga criticized the talks as pandering to terrorists, and has indicated he would scrap them in favor of US-backed military campaigns similar to those led by his mentor, former President Alvaro Uribe.

The election campaign was marred by scandals: Zuluaga's team was accused of sabotaging the peace talks by hacking negotiators' email accounts and spreading allegations that Santos took drug money during his 2010 campaign.

In the run-off vote on June 15 Santos could receive the backing of two other presidential candidates, Enrique Penalosa and Clara Lopez, who both support negotiations with the FARC and won close to 24 percent of Sunday's vote.

The fifth candidate, Martha Lucia Ramirez, who won around 15 per cent of the vote, is skeptical of the peace talks and her supporters may swing behind Zuluaga.

rg/av (Reuters, AFP)