Pro-Uribe party leads in Colombia vote for congress

Bloomberg News / March 16, 2010

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BOGOTA — Colombian presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos’s La U party was leading as vote counting for congressional elections continued yesterday, consolidating his position as the front-runner to succeed Alvaro Uribe.

The four main parties that have backed Uribe the past eight years were projected to win 66 of 102 seats in the Senate, El Tiempo newspaper reported, citing the National Registry. La U was poised to gain 27 seats with 94 percent of ballots counted, converting the party into the biggest political force in the chamber.

“The Colombian people were very clear yesterday, saying, we want these policies to continue,’’ Santos, who was a defense minister under Uribe, told Bogota-based W Radio yesterday.

The congressional vote, a gauge of political sentiment before the May 30 presidential elections, went off with little violence after rebels had threatened to disrupt balloting.

The Conservative Party, another pro-Uribe party, was projected to win 23 seats in the upper house though a primary to choose its presidential candidate was deadlocked between former agriculture minister Felipe Arias and former ambassador to Britain Noemi Sanin.

The opposition Liberal Party, which has former senator Rafael Pardo as its presidential candidate, was set to win 18 seats. The Alternative Democratic Pole party garnered eight seats.

Two other parties identified with Uribe’s security policies, Cambio Radical and the National Integration Party, or PIN, are projected to win eight seats each.

While a national tally for the lower house wasn’t yet available, La U may have secured 44 seats, Santos said yesterday.

Uribe retained a more than 60 percent approval rating throughout his two terms in office by pushing back cocaine-funded Marxist guerrillas and attracting record foreign investment. The Constitutional Court last month barred him from seeking a third term.