Colombia presidential vote heads for runoff

None of the Colombian candidates has received over 50 percent of the vote.

Bogota: Colombia`s Presidential Election was headed for a runoff after none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the vote, election officials said.

The announcement was made after authorities counted 99.1 percent of the ballots.

President Alvaro Uribe`s pick for his successor, former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, took a commanding 46.6 percent to 21.5 percent lead over his closest rival, former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus, the National Registry in charge of the election said.

Since neither candidate broke past the 50 percent mark, the two now head for a showdown vote on June 20 to see who replaces the hugely popular Uribe after two, four-year mandates in office.

In a field of nine candidates and trailing far behind, were Cambio Radical`s German Vargas Lleras, with 10 percent of the vote, and leftist Gustavo Petro, with nine percent.

Nearly half of Colombia`s 29.9 million eligible voters took part in Sunday`s election, the election board said.

Supporters of Santos, 58, broke out in cheers and song when results showed their candidate had clinched the election.

"This is your victory, Mr President," said Santos, dedicating his first-round win to the outgoing president.

Mockus was upbeat about the results.

"Today we`ve reached a goal that seemed impossible a few months ago: going ahead to a second round," he told hundreds of followers at his campaign headquarters.

"If we`re creative, we`ll win that second round. We know that together we can radically change our society. We know that violence, inequality and corruption are not our destiny, but problems we can overcome," he added.

Despite threats made to voters to keep away from the polls by the country`s largest and oldest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the election was the most peaceful in decades, said Interior Minister Fabio Valencia.

Bureau Report

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