December 22, 2014
Santos, Zuluaga set for presidential run-off in Colombia
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Democratic Centre candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga look set to go to a run-off to decide who will lead the South American country, after preliminary results showed that the challenger held a slim lead over Santos.
With just 3 percent of votes counted, Zuluaga had secured 31.41%, while Santos trailed in second with 30.86%. Leftist candidate Clara López was in third, having taken 13.83% in early counts.
If the numbers stay similar neither leading candidate will pick up the votes necessary to win in the first round, meaning a run-off election will be held on June 15.
Colombians voted earlier in the tightest election for two decades that may determine whether the country continues peace talks with leftist guerrillas or steps up its battlefield offensive to end a 50-year war.
The vote has largely become a plebiscite on President Santos' strategy of negotiating disarmament of Marxist FARC rebels to end bloodshed that has killed some 200,000.
Right-winger Zuluaga dismissed the talks as pandering to terrorists and suggested he would scrap them in favor of US-backed military campaigns similar to those led by his mentor, former President Alvaro Uribe.
"I voted for Santos and the peace process," said state worker Freddy Ruge after voting in Bogota. "He is the only president who can see the peace process through."
Uribe fell out with Santos, 62, when the president launched peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) instead of sticking to the eight-year strategy of forcing the group's surrender on the battlefield.
Santos appeals to Colombians who hope the guerrillas will lay down arms after seeing top leaders killed and their numbers halved to about 8,000 fighters.