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Ex-Colombian president storms back into politics

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-10

Colombia’s governing coalition won legislative elections on Sunday, but strong support for the new party of ex-president Alvaro Uribe (pictured main) could complicate ongoing peace talks with FARC rebels.

President Juan Manuel Santos, the frontrunner in the country’s May 25 presidential election, retained his centre-right coalition’s majority in both congressional houses.

His allies won 47 of the 102 seats in the Senate, according to official returns with 95 percent of the vote counted.

In the lower chamber, Santos’ supporters claimed 91 of the 163 seats.

However, Uribe, a fierce critic of the government, was the top vote-getter in the Senate elections.

His new Centro Democratico party won at least 20 Senate seats, making it the main opposition force in the chamber.

Santos said the vote was "an important sign for the country and the whole world that the immense majority of us want peace."

He then extended an olive branch to the ex-president.

"I also want to congratulate Senator Uribe," Santos said late on Sunday. "I hope that we can leave aside the hatred and resentments, and can work for the country."

Obstruct peace deal?

Uribe has blasted Santos’ efforts to negotiate a peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC rebels.

The former head of state fought bitterly against Marxist-inspired rebels during his tenure, and believes the rebel army should be beaten militarily.

Observers said his party will likely seek to obstruct legislation if a peace deal is eventually reached.

The decades-old conflict in Colombia has killed around 220,000 people and displaced many more.

The rebels have negotiated for land reform if a peace agreement is reached, and hope to transform themselves into a political party if the fighting ends.

Despite progress at the negotiations in Cuba’s capital Havana that began in late 2012, the decision to engage in peace talks with the guerrillas remains divisive and will be pivotal in voters’ choice of president in May.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

Date created : 2014-03-10

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