Colombians vote for congress

March 10, 2014 - 10:12:14 am

A view of the biggest polling station in Medellin, Colombia, yesterday

BOGOTA: Colombians voted yesterday for a new congress that will tackle legislation for the next president and play a historic role in creating laws to end five decades of conflict if peace is reached with Marxist FARC rebels.

The ballot is likely to consolidate President Juan Manuel Santos as the frontrunner for a second straight term in a presidential vote on May 25, allowing him to continue talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that could end the war and transform Colombia’s political makeup.  “This election is different, it’s distinct. It’s the most important congressional election in 50 years,” said Senate candidate Juan Manuel Galan.

Up for grabs are 168 seats in the lower house and 102 in the Senate. One of the Senate seats is being sought by Santos’ right-wing predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, a fierce critic of the government who believes the FARC should be beaten on the battlefield.

The still-popular Uribe is expected to win the Senate seat easily, raising the temperature in congress as he may seek to block legislation that could enable FARC rebels to enter the political system without serving considerable jail time.     

Secret peace talks reached a partial accord late last year on the FARC’s participation in politics, a highly controversial item on the five-point agenda. Any deal with the rebels would be put to the nation in a referendum, and then to congress to devise laws for its implementation. Some 32 million Colombians are eligible to vote, though congressional elections have a particularly high abstention rate. Reuters

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