Less violence, more drama for Colombia's election

The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are now the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, a leftist political party that has candidates running for congressional seats.

Colombians went to the polls on Sunday to elect members of Congress in what President Juan Manuel Santos touted as "the most peaceful elections" in decades thanks to peace talks with the country's guerrilla groups.

The polls serve as a preview for presidential elections in May, and a strong right-wing showing could put the peace deal at risk. It fielded 74 legislative candidates but got only 0.22 percent of votes for the lower house and just 0.35 percent in the Senate.

Duque, 41, supported by former President Alvaro Uribe and his Democratic Center party, backs foreign investment and an aggressive security strategy meant to combat Colombia's remaining rebel group, which regularly kidnaps and bombs oil pipelines. "It is not necessarily bad for the peace process that the FARC did not get many votes - the first step is to normalise their participation in politics". Colombia's National Registry reported that more than half of the country eligible voters stayed home. "A long war has generated lots of fear and rancor towards them".

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Colombians also voted for candidates from the right-wing and leftist coalitions to represent them in May's presidential election.

By contrast, numerous accord's critics picked up seats, with the Democratic Center party led by former President Alvaro Uribe headed to being the biggest bloc in the Senate.

The results are likely to lead to a last minute scramble among candidates to form coalitions to better position themselves ahead of what is seen as a wide-open presidential race.

Abbey Steele, a political science professor at the University of Amsterdam and author of a recent book on Colombia's conflict, said Sunday's results could have lasting implications on the peace process as some laws governing the accord's implementation have yet to be passed.

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More than 6 million votes were cast in the three-way right-wing primary and 3.5 million in the two-way left-wing contest.

"Our results were very positive" Petro told his followers after results were published.

"There's now sure to be at the presidential level a shake out of candidates over the coming weeks as we approach the first round - Petro can't yet be completely discounted but he looks further from his goal today compared with Friday", said Rupert Stebbings, managing director of equities at Grupo Bancolombia. The group is now campaigning in legislative and presidential elections scheduled for this year.

Ivan Marquez and Carlos Antonio Lozada of the political party of the FARC speak during a news conference in Bogota, Colombia March 8, 2018.

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The success of the conservative parties, which were opposed to the 2016 peace deal with the rebel group, raises questions about the future of the agreement.

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