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Colombians vote in elections seen as test for peace deal

AFP  |  Bogota 

Colombians cast their votes to elect a new with a resurgent right, bitterly opposed to a peace deal that allows leftist former rebels to participate, expected to poll strongly.

The election yesterday was the calmest in half a century of conflict in Colombia, with the former rebel movement FARC spurning jungle warfare for politics, and the -- the country's last active rebel group -- observing a ceasefire.

said the polls were "the safest, most transparent elections" in the country's recent history shortly before polls closed 4:00 pm (2:30 am IST) after eight hours of peaceful voting.

"This is the first time in more than half a century that the FARC, instead of sabotaging the elections, are taking part in it," he said, adding that the had "respected" their ceasefire.

Without giving figures, Santos also hailed "massive participation" in the election, in a country where abstentionism traditionally runs at around 60 per cent.

Full results are expected today.

However, by late yesterday voters had already chosen the candidates from the right-wing and leftist coalitions who will contest the in May, following held in parallel to the legislative vote.

of the headed by and former Alvaro Uribe, won with more than 2.7 million votes, or 67 per cent of the poll, and will spearhead hardline opposition to the peace deal.

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

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor's office said it would open an investigation into why electoral officials ran out of ballot papers for

The peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of (FARC) guarantees their new political party 10 of the 280 seats in the new

The party uses the same Spanish acronym, which now stands for the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, and replaced its crossed-rifles insignia with a red rose.

"It's the first time in my life that I've voted and I do it for peace," said Pablo Catatumbo, a former FARC who is assured a seat.

Opinion polls give the FARC little chance of adding to its 10 free seats, following a disastrous campaign during which its rebels-turned-politicians were largely drowned out by a tide of public revulsion over crimes committed during the conflict.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, March 12 2018. 06:20 IST