- Title: COLOMBIA: Presidential race tied a week before vote
- Date: 25th May 2010
- Summary: GENERAL VIEW OF PEOPLE TURING POLITICAL EVENT VARIOUS OF JUAN MANUEL SANTOS ON STAGE WITH FAMILY AND HIS VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
- Embargoed: 9th June 2010 13:00
- Location: Colombia
- Country: Colombia
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAEMMVAPSOMK8R9CHOCU24857B2
- Story Text: Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus, Colombia's top two presidential candidates, remain deadlocked a week before the May 30 election but Mockus leads slightly in a likely run-off, a new poll showed Sunday (May 23).
At a a rally to celebrate the closing of his presidential campaign, Antanas Mockus, sporting his campaign's green color, expressed optimism for Colombia's future.
"Antanas is crazy because Antanas believes that in a few years no one will kill anyone in Colombia for two thousand pesos or twenty thousand pesos," he told his supporters. "Life is sacred."
In the coastal city of Cartagena, Santos, President Alvaro Uribe's former defense minister, spoke to his supporters as he wrapped up his campaign.
"This coming Sunday is a day when the Colombian people will determine the path that the country will take for many years to come, we could either fall behind, go back to the past or continue going forward and I want to go forward," he said.
Santos has the support of 34 percent of voters compared to 32 percent for Mockus, a two-time Bogota mayor vowing to crack down on corruption, in the Ipsos Napoleon Franco poll.
Four other candidates are running in the election, but are far behind the two top contenders. If no one wins more than 50 percent next Sunday, the top two vote-getters would meet in a run-off set for June 20.
The poll, released late on Saturday, showed in a run-off Mockus would win 45 percent against 40 percent for Santos. The Ipsos Napoleon Franco poll, based on interviews with 1,856 voters, has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.
"According to the question we ask, if the second round was today? It seems that the people's choice shows that Mockus leads the surveys by 5 points, that means apparently the people that are voting for the other candidates that are still on the list, show a more favorable intension to support the Mockus proposal, which is more than a political proposal it is non-political versus Santos' which is one of continuity," explained Napoleon Franco, a polling expert.
"Yes, definitely the polls are important but what one can clearly see is that the polls will be different at the moment the vote takes place," said one unidentified Mockus supporter at his rally in Bogota. "You can definitely see how the people of Colombia are with Antanas Mockus now and we are very green."
Both candidates promise to continue Uribe's tough line against a waning rebel insurgency and consolidate his investor-friendly policies, but they also vow to increase tax revenues to tackle the wide budget deficit and create jobs.
Uribe, a U.S. ally, steps down with his popularity above 70 percent after winning a landslide election in 2002 and sweeping to re-election four years later. The constitutional court blocked his attempt to run for a third term.
Santos began the campaign as a clear favorite as the heir to Uribe's security successes against rebels. Violence, kidnapping and bombings dropped sharply during Uribe's eight years in office, and foreign investment increased five-fold.
But polls show Colombians are now more concerned about jobs, healthcare and education than about the war. Scandals over rights abuses and corruption also marred Uribe's second term.
The scandals and the shift in voter concerns allowed Mockus to surge in opinion polls from April to challenge Santos, but the former Bogota mayor has reached a plateau and Santos revamped his campaign to counter his rival.
Colombia's next leader inherits an improved security and investment climate, but must also manage a burgeoning deficit, a nascent oil and mining boom and a dispute with neighboring Venezuela that has battered trade.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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