Thursday, 18 July, 2019

Colombians vote in elections seen as test for peace deal

Patty Aguilar | 13 March, 2018, 00:19

But centrist and leftist parties also polled strongly, according to the partial results, released by electoral authorities with more than 90% of the vote counted.

Analysts see the balloting for the Senate and House of Representatives as a test of the democratic viability of the FARC, whose fighters laid down their arms following a historic peace pact previous year and converted into a political movement.

The congressional vote was seen as a test for President Juan Manuel Santos - his government had been criticised for what many feel was a peace deal that was too lenient towards the Farc.

Sunday's election also included two presidential primaries, one for leftist candidates and another for candidates backed by conservative movements. Ivan Duque, easily swept the conservative primary, in which more than 5.8 million people voted - a bigger haul than either of the top two finishers got in the first round of the 2014 presidential election.

While no party came close to winning control of either the lower house or Senate, with results still not finalized early on Monday, Duque's Democratic Center party was polling the largest number of votes for the Senate, with more than 2.5 million, and was running second in votes for the lower house.

The Farc performed poorly, in line with expectations - but is guaranteed some seats by the peace agreement.

The party uses the same Spanish acronym, which now stands for the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, and replaced its crossed-rifles insignia with a red rose.

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The FARC's Jorge Torres Victoria, who fought under the name "Pablo Catatumbo", was voting for the first time in his life, and hoping to win a Senate seat.

Under the peace accord, FARC disarmed its 7,000 fighters in order to join the political process, agreed to confess to wartime crimes and pay reparations to victims.

The group will, however, have candidates in Sunday's congressional election, its first outing as an unarmed political party, after it demobilized under a 2016 peace deal with the government.

Right-leaning candidates accuse Santos of failing to make a fair deal with the FARC - including by allowing ex-rebels to avoid jail sentences.

"The mere fact of not applying what has been signed would be enough for this agreement to be ineffective", said Frederic Masse, an expert on the conflict at Colombia's Externado University.

Sunday's elections were held against the backdrop of economic concern in Colombia, which registered 1.8% growth in 2017, its weakest for almost a decade.

Duque and Petro are not the only candidates running for the presidency.

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