Forbes | 5/30/2010 12:00:00 AM
Uribe torchbearer early leader in Colombia vote
May 30--A former defense minister promising to build on President Alvaro Uribe's security gains took an early but convincing lead Sunday in Colombia's presidential elections.
Voting was on the whole and orderly, though independent election observers reported isolated cases of vote-buying.
With 34 percent of the votes counted, Juan Manuel Santos had 47 percent against 22 percent for Antanas Mockus, a maverick outsider pledging clean government.
Santos was even winning in Bogota, seen as Mockus' stronghold, with 40 percent of the vote to 27 percent for capital's former two-time mayor.
If no candidate in the field of nine wins a simple majority on Sunday, the two top vote-getters will meet in a June 20 runoff.
Third with 10 percent German Vargas of Cambio Radical, which along with Santos' National Unity party is a member of Uribe's governing coalition. Trailing him with 9 percent was the main opposition candidate, Gustavo Petro of the leftist Polo Democratico Alternativo.
Although generally peaceful, Sunday was marked by nearly two dozen firefights with leftist rebels that claimed the lives of at least three soldiers, a potent reminder that Colombia's half century-old conflict is far from resolved.
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