Colombia's presidential election viewed as referendum on FARC peace deal

Colombia's presidential election could require a second round of voting.

Posted: May 27, 2018 5:39 PM

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) -- Polls closed Sunday in Colombia's presidential contest that's expected to require a second round of voting and which is seen by some observers as a referendum on the country's peace deal with FARC rebels.

Six candidates are vying to fill the seat left by departing President Juan Manuel Santos, who was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the long-running civil war between his government and guerillas from FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Under the deal, the rebels agreed to lay down their arms, exit the jungle and pursue their aims via politics rather than guerilla warfare.

The frontrunners in the election to replace Santos couldn't differ more on the peace deal. Conservative candidate Ivan Duque has taken tough stances against FARC and openly opposes the deal, while left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro supports the deal and blames former President Alvaro Uribe for the turmoil wrought by FARC.

Uribe has endorsed Duque. Santos has not issued an endorsement.

Other important issues include unemployment, healthcare and corruption.

Though there have been isolated incidents of violence related to the election, they have been minimal, likely owing to the dismantling of FARC and the Defense Ministry deploying 240,000 troops to ensure safety during the election process.

About 12,000 election observers are in place, and the Organization of American States has contributed 78 monitors to ensure the integrity of the process.

More than 36 million Colombians were eligible to vote in the election, including more than 800,000 expatriates voting from 69 countries.

As no candidate is forecast to win 50% of the vote, it's expected that Sunday's election will result in a June 17 runoff -- likely between Petro and Duque, according to pollsters. Santos faced runoffs in 2010 and 2014.

Here is what you need to know about the six candidates:

Humberto de la Calle, 71, is backed by a coalition between the Liberal Party and Indigenous Social Alliance. A former vice president and interior minister, he was tapped by Santos to serve as chief negotiator with FARC during the peace process.
Duque, 41, of Uribe's Democratic Center Party served as a senator for four years and as an adviser to the Finance Ministry and the Inter-American Development Bank. He also is a professor and writer, who co-authored the book, "The Orange Economy."
Sergio Fajardo, 61, a mathematician and member of the conservative Colombia Coalition party, is the former governor of the department of Antioquia in northwest Colombia and former Medellin mayor.
Petro, 58, is a former guerilla and an economist who founded the Progressive Movement ahead of his run for mayor of Bogotá, an office he won in 2011. Formerly a member of M-19, another guerilla group that became a political party, Petro has served three terms as a congressman and one as a senator.
Germán Vargas Lleras, 56, is a center-right candidate backed by his own Radical Change party. He was vice president under Santos, won four terms as senator and served as interior minister and minister of housing, city and territory.
Jorge Antonio Trujillo is a candidate with the We Are Colombia party. A Christian pastor with a doctorate in theology, he served as senator between 2006 and 2010.

Results are expected to be announced at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET).

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