Right-wing parties opposed to FARC peace deal lead Colombia vote

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 15, 2018

The guerrillas blamed the "prolonged recess" of negotiations on government appeasement of the "far-right" in Colombia.

The polls serve as a preview for presidential elections in May, and a strong right-wing showing could put the peace deal at risk. Both candidates have vowed to implement the peace deal.

Gustavo Petro presidential candidate speaks during a press conference after knowing the results of the legislative elections in Bogota Thomson Reuters BOGOTA (Reuters) - A dismal showing by Colombia's left-wing Decencia coalition in legislative voting could bode poorly for its candidate, Gustavo Petro, in a looming presidential election, while in party primaries right-wing rival Ivan Duque scored a more emphatic victory.

Other parties skeptical of the Farc accords, such as Radical Change and the Conservatives, came in second and third.

"As leader, but above all as a human being, I cannot give up doing everything I can, until I have exhausted every recourse, so that no more lives are lost, no more people are injured or mutilated, no more damage is inflicted on infrastructure or wildlife due to the conflict with the ELN", Santos said in a televised address. "Many are furious that people with blood on their hands can run for elections". Although it seems unlikely the group will return to war, many Colombians are unwilling to move on. "And that can only be achieved by talking", he said, adding he hoped the two sides could agree to another ceasefire. "It is not necessarily bad for the peace process that the FARC did not get many votes - the first step is to normalise their participation in politics".

While Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his peace brokering efforts, not all Colombians are convinced that negotiating with the rebels is the right strategy, with more hardline groups saying the rebels should be military defeated.

Abbey Steele, a political science professor at the University of Amsterdam and author of a recent book on Colombia's conflict, said Sunday's results could have lasting implications on the peace process as some laws governing the accord's implementation have yet to be passed.

Events since the FARC ceasefire has given ammunition to Santos' critics, not least the general consensus that the ELN has taken over territory abandoned by the FARC and strengthened their hand.

Hours earlier the ELN issued a statement on their website saying they were going back to the negotiation table with "the conviction that it is better to carry out the dialogue in the midst of a bilateral ceasefire, and that the agreed agenda must be developed with diligence and speed".

By contrast, numerous accord's critics picked up seats, with the Democratic Center party led by former President Alvaro Uribe headed to being the biggest bloc in the Senate.

The outcome of the lower house and Senate elections and primaries for left and right-wing parties, all held on Sunday, were keenly watched as the deeply polarized Andean country heads towards an election set for May 27.

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