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Peace talks opponent elected

March 10, 2014

A vehement opponent of peace talks between Colombia's government and FARC rebels has won a seat in the country's senate. His Centro Democratico opposition party roughly 20 more seats in Senate in Sunday's election.

A voter casts their ballot in Colombias congressional elections
Image: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Colombian former President Alvaro Uribe gained a seat in the country's Senate on a platform of strong opposition to a peace deal between the country's government and rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The civil war between the government and FARC guerillas has been going on for 50 years, with more than 200,000 people killed and millions displaced. Peace talks between the rebels and Colombia's governing coalition, spearheaded by current President Juan Manuel Santos, have dominated the country's political life since they started in 2012. Santos hopes to conclude them soon, with a peace agreement.

With more than 95 percent of the votes counted, Santos retains the majority in the two-chamber Congress, but his margin has shrunk. Uribe's new Centro Democratico opposition party gained an estimated 20 seats in the 102 seat Senate.

Peace talks a battleground

Polls closed at 4 p.m. Sunday local time (2100 UTC). Ahead of the vote, it was predicted that President Juan Manuel Santos, expected to announce his bid for re-election this week, would retain control of the two-chamber Congress, an endorsement of his government's peace talks strategy. Santos remains the favorite to win the presidential election.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, a conservative still popular for his fight against FARC while in power from 2002 to 2010, campaigned on slogan "No to impunity." He represents Colombia's first ex-president to seek a seat in the Senate, and now he has been elected he is in a position to challenge the course of the talks.

About 32 million Colombians were eligible to vote for representatives to fill 168 lower house seats and 102 in the Senate, though congressional elections have a particularly high abstention rate. Ahead of the election, National Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora said that groups such as FARC had exercised "pressure and intimidation" on voters to keep them from the polls in at least one-fifth of the country.

se/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)