Ex-defence chief wins Colombia vote
Colombia’s former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, has easily won the first round of the country’s presidential election, but without the majority needed to avoid a June run-off with rival Antanas Mockus.
Santos, the anointed successor of Alvaro Uribe, the outgoing president, led with 46 per cent of the votes, while Mockus, a former Bogota mayor, had 21 per cent with almost all polling stations reporting, electoral authorities said on Sunday.
But the Unity party candidate failed to get more than 50 per cent of the votes needed to clinch victory outright and will have to battle Mockus, the Green party’s man, in a second round on June 20.
Addressing his supporters late on Sunday, Santos said: "Today our party, as it did four years ago and as it did on March 14, ratified that it is the first political force in the country."
But Mockus was not conceding defeat, despite garnering less than half the votes his opponent did.
"More than three million citizens have united in what has become a wave of green hope. We know that together we can transform society, we know violence, inequality and corruption are not our destiny – they are problems we can overcome," he told his supporters.
Opinion polls had shown Santos in a tight race with Mockus, well ahead of the seven other candidates.
Speaking from Bogota, Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera English ‘s Latin America editor, said the "extraordinarily competitive" race had been expected to be one of the closest the country had seen in many decades, but Santos had emerged with a one-sided win instead.
Jorge Restrepo, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera English that the discrepancy between the opinion polls and the election results may have been due to pre-election surveys giving the urban opinion more weight.
"Colombia still has a significant proportion of the rural population who mostly support the security and continuation of Uribe’s security policy," he said.
"We may have also underestimated the very many strengths and the importance of Uribe’s opinion."
Al Jazeera English‘s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin, said even the Santos camp was surprised by the margin of its candidate’s win, describing the results as exceeding all expectations.
Our correspondent said either Santos connected with voters on health and social issues or on his security policy.
"People here are not voting for change in this election but for an extension of Uribe’s security policy," he said.