Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Colombians pick candidates in two primaries for May presidential election

The Marxist group, now transformed into a political party called the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, failed to take a single seat in congressional elections as it polled less than one per cent on a day where the big victor was a hard-right critic of the peace accords. Final official results are expected later on Monday.

The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are now the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, a leftist political party that has candidates running for congressional seats.

Santos has made no secret of his dream of "complete peace" in Colombia, having signed a peace deal in November 2016 with its biggest rebel group, the FARC.

Santos, who cast his vote near the presidential headquarters in Bogota just past 8 a.m., also celebrated the FARC's participation in the electoral process.

Colombians also voted for candidates from the right-wing and leftist coalitions to represent them in May's presidential election.

"It's the first time in my life that I've voted and I do it for peace", said Pablo Catatumbo, a former FARC commander who is assured a senate seat.

Opinion polls gave the FARC little chance of adding to its 10 free seats, following a disastrous campaign during which its rebels-turned-politicians were largely drowned out by a tide of public revulsion over crimes committed during the conflict.

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.

Opinion polls predict a triumph for ex-president and senator Alvaro Uribe and his Centro Democratico party, along with other parties opposed to the peace agreement that has polarized the South American country.

"The surgery which took place yesterday, combined with already discussed features of the electoral campaign, has led us to decline our presidential aspirations", FARC senate candidate Ivan Marquez said, reading from a statement.

Parties will likely now look to form alliances before the May 27 election to replace President Juan Manuel Santos.

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. Petro has led polls for the presidential vote.

Galindo said he had approved of photocopies being used for polling stations where the cards had run out.

While all candidates advocate clamping down on corruption and investment in education and health, the two top pollers differ in their views on a peace deal with Marxist FARC rebels.

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