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Right-winger Duque to contend with leftist Petro in Colombian presidential runoff
BY 2018-05-29 07:19:31

BOGOTA, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Ivan Duque, right-wing candidate for the Democratic Center Party, won the first round of the Colombian presidential election on Sunday, claiming 39.14 percent of the vote with 99.99 percent of votes tallied.


He was short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a second-round runoff and will face runner-up Gustavo Petro of the left-wing, who harvested 25.09 percent of the vote.


While most election polls had predicted Duque and Petro would enter the second round, former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo had a strong performance, finishing in third with 23.73 percent.


All reports indicated that the day went peacefully, with no signs of the armed violence that has marred previous Colombian elections. The second round will take place on June 17.


The election is being closely watched by the international community keen to see Colombia move beyond its history of violence and drug crime. It was the first election after the Colombian government signed a historic deal with the FARC guerrilla group, ending over 50 years of armed conflict.


Duque, seen as the protege of former president Alvaro Uribe who opposed the peace deal signed with FARC guerrilla, is considered the favorite to win the second round.


The country remains deeply divided over the deal since its signing in 2016. The FARC is now a legitimate political party and there may be little appetite to re-open the debate about the deal, although Duque has said it should be amended.


"I feel honored to have arrived at the election as the representative of a new generation of Colombians, and I want to govern with everyone and for everyone," Duque told press after casting his vote.


Duque is also seen as a friendly figure for foreign investors as he speaks fluent English, having studied law at American University in Washington and public policy management at Georgetown University.


Petro, former guerrilla leader himself, once spent 18 months in prison for illegal possession of weapons. He was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 2002 and then a senator.


He was elected as mayor of Bogota, Colombia's capital city, in 2012, holding the position for two terms until 2015. His tenure was marked by heavy restrictions on carrying firearms and a focus on environmental protection.


Both candidates are likely to make overtures to the supporters of Fajardo and Humberto de la Calle, the government's chief negotiator with the FARC, who finished fifth.


The vote was split across the country with Duque winning the key cities of Medellin and Bucaramanga and Petro triumphing in Barranquilla and Cartagena.


Addressing the nation in a televised speech on Sunday morning, outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos called on all Colombians to turn out and vote, saying the ongoing election would be the "most peaceful" in Colombian history.


"We have also sought this to be the election with the best guarantees for the electorate. We must do everything in our grasp for the victory to be transparent and with all guarantees," he said.


Echoing Santos, Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera told reporters that the election saw "one of the most peaceful electoral days in the last 50 years."


"This is a dividend of peace, thanks to the effort of President Juan Manuel Santos for having succeeded in signing an agreement with the FARC," he said.


(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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