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Santos favoured in Colombia vote
Opinion polls put ex-defence minister ahead in presidential runoff.
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2010 14:11 GMT
Favourate Santos is closely allied to the
incumbent president Alvaro Uribe [REUTERS]

Polls have opened in Colombia for a presidential runoff which Juan Manuel Santos, the former defence minister, is expected to win.

Opinion polls were forecasting that Santos would draw more than 60 per cent of Sunday's
vote, compared to about 28 per cent for his rival Antanas Mockus, a former Bogota mayor.

Colombians are choosing a successor to Alvaro Uribe, the popular incumbent president whom the constitutional court rejected his bid to seek a third straight term.

His supporters have rallied around Santos, who like Uribe represents the conservative Social National Unity party and has vowed "to keep in place the legacy of Uribe, the best president Colombia has had."

Santos won the first round of the presidential poll on May 30 with 47 per cent of the vote against 22 per cent for Mockus, who runs for the Green Party.

Battling Farc

Colombians associate Santos with several successful operations during his time as defence minister.

In March 2008, the military attacked the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) in Ecuador and killed Raul Reyes, the group's number two.

in depth

    Focus:
    Mixed views on Uribe's legacy
    Internally displaced people 'face poll abuse'
    Video:
    Challenges for new Colombian leader
    Santos sweeps Colombia vote
    Voters' opinions on presidential election
    Presidential candidate under fire
    Blog:
    The Farc side of the story

Operation Jaque in July the same year rescued 15 high-profile hostages, including French Ingrid Betancourt.

Uribe has used billions of dollars of aid from the US in a battle against Farc, and has managed to push them away from the main cities.

But the rebels have said they will keep up their fight against the government no matter who wins.

"People can vote for whom the want," Commander Duber of Farc told Al Jazeera on the eve of the election.

"But we will continue fighting. The ideology of the Farc is to win or die, that¹s what Che Guevara said."

"If there are conditions for peace talks then we could sit down and talk. But it¹s difficult. Santos has killed lots of innocent people while trying to kill us."

Whoever wins the presidential runoff will have to tackle the region's highest unemployment rate, a stubborn fiscal deficit and tensions with neighbouring Venezuela, where a trade dispute is weighing on Colombia's economic recovery.

Mockus has made a series of comments that led voters to question his ability to manage the military and Colombia's foreign relations.

At one point he suggested disbanding the military and then backtracked.

He also suggested he would have no choice but to extradite Uribe if an Ecuadorean court convicted him of wrongdoing in a 2008 cross-border raid. But in reality, presidents can deny extradition requests.

The mathematician and philosopher has also alienated voters by promising a tax
increase.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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