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Colombians vote to short-list presidential contenders

BOGOTA (AFP) – Colombians vote yesterday to draw up a shortlist of candidates for presidential elections polls suggest may yield the country’s first-ever leftist leader.

Nearly 39 million of Colombia’s 50 million inhabitants are eligible to cast their ballot in a complex but critical election in a country plagued by violence and growing poverty levels.

On one part of the ballot, voters will determine the composition of the Senate and House of Representatives, currently in the hands of right-wing parties.

But all eyes will really be on the outcome of the presidential primaries – called inter-party “consultations” – happening alongside the legislative vote.

In a country with a history of political violence and voter turnout traditionally below 50 per cent, outgoing President Ivan Duque has promised safety “guarantees” for the non-compulsory vote.

It comes with the president and legislature both at rock-bottom levels of public opinion.

Colombia has always been ruled by the political right, but polls show that former guerrilla, ex-Bogota mayor and senator Gustavo Petro, 61, on the left of the political spectrum, stands a real chance of winning.

Also in the running is former FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

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