Colombian election: conservative parties take lead

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March 12, 2018 The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, today welcomed the decision of the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to resume peace talks with the ELN guerilla in Quito, that had been suspended in January.

By contrast, numerous accord's critics picked up seats, with the Democratic Center party led by former President Alvaro Uribe headed to being the biggest bloc in the Senate.

Ivan Duque from Uribe's party and left-wing politician Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogota, won the parties' primaries.

Petro won the day's other primary with 2.8 million votes, or 85 percent. Although it seems unlikely the group will return to war, many Colombians are unwilling to move on.

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Supporters of 57-year-old Petro's Colombia Humana party highlight his work to improve conditions for the poor.

Sunday's primaries - in which Duque won nearly 42 percent more votes than Petro did - were considered a better test of voter support than often inaccurate opinion polls, although some voters will have participated strategically and may not back either victor in the presidential vote.

Colombia's former guerrilla movement the Farc suffered a mauling on Sunday in its first electoral test since signing a peace agreement in 2016 that saw it end over a half-century of armed conflict.

The outcome of the lower house and Senate elections and primaries for left and right-wing parties, all held on Sunday, were keenly watched as the deeply polarised Andean country heads towards an election set for May 27. While no party came close to winning control of either legislature, the Democratic Center party came out on top in the Senate, with 19 seats and second in the lower house, with 32 seats. "That said, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the peace agreement could be enough to moderate any recovery in financial markets if Duque's rise in the polls continues in the coming weeks", analysts said.

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Catatumbo, along with nine of his former comrades, is guaranteed a non-voting seat in Colombia's congress as part of the controversial peace deal that initially failed to pass a referendum.

Sergio Fajardo, a former mayor of Medellin, and ex-vice president German Vargas Lleras have both entered the field without having had to contest inter-party primaries.

Other candidates include Liberal party elder statesman Humberto de la Calle, who lead government negotiators at FARC talks, and former defence minister and US ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon.

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