Colombia heads to polls in first election since FARC peace process

Gustavo Petro, a former Bogota mayor who is seeking to become conservative Colombia's first leftist president, will oppose him after winning almost two million votes, 85 per cent of the poll, in his primary.

The Marxist group, now transformed into a political party called the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, failed to take a single seat in congressional elections as it polled less than one per cent on a day where the big victor was a hard-right critic of the peace accords.

A significant lead in votes for Colombian right-wing candidate Ivan Duque over leftist Gustavo Petro in presidential primaries pushed the peso up against the dollar on Monday as investors bet Duque would be more business friendly that the former guerrilla candidate.

Duque, 41, supported by former President Alvaro Uribe and his Democratic Center party, backs foreign investment and an aggressive security strategy meant to combat Colombia's remaining rebel group, which regularly kidnaps and bombs oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, the hardline Democratic Centre party - founded by former president Álvaro Uribe and fiercely critical of the peace deal - won 15.89%, the largest share.

"The surgery which took place yesterday, combined with already discussed features of the electoral campaign, has led us to decline our presidential aspirations", FARC senate candidate Ivan Marquez said, reading from a statement.

But with Petro's Decencia winning only 1.7 percent of the vote in the country's House of Representatives and 3.4 percent in the Senate, the left-wing candidate would have a hard time dealing with a right-leaning congress if he wins the presidential elections.

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Sunday's vote was seen as a barometer for a fiercely contested presidential election in May. The group is guaranteed 10 seats in the body through 2026 under the terms of the peace deal. His own Party of National Unity, which was the biggest political movement in the outgoing congress, finished fifth overall.

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.

While alliances are formed in the next two months, candidates will need to gather more support for their campaigns. The goal now: "to win", Petro wrote in a Tweet Sunday night.

"Our results were very positive", Petro told his followers.

The success of the conservative parties, which were opposed to the 2016 peace deal with the rebel group, raises questions about the future of the agreement.

Colombia's former FARC rebels will not field a candidate in the country's May presidential election as its hopeful, Rodrigo Londono, battles heart problems, the group said on Thursday.


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