Pro-business candidate wins Colombian presidential election

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – Right-wing candidate Ivan Duque won Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, beating leftist Gustavo Petro in a victory that reassured investors but raised the prospect of changes to a landmark peace accord with Marxist rebels.

With 98.2 percent of polling stations counted, Duque won the ballot with 53.9 percent of votes while Petro, who had pledged to shake up Colombia’s economic model, had 41.8 percent.

Duque, 41, the business friendly protégé of hardline former President Alvaro Uribe, wants to change a peace deal he deems too lenient on Marxist FARC rebels while keeping Colombia’s economic policies intact.

Former guerrilla Petro, whose positions prompted comparisons to Venezuela’s former socialist President Hugo Chavez, pledged to take on political elites, redistribute land to the poor and gradually eliminate the need for oil and coal in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy.

“We need a strong hand in the peace process now,” said Lucero Cevallos, 42, an auxiliary nurse, at a Duque celebration in Bogota.

Presidential candidate Ivan Duque greets supporters as he departs a polling station after casting his vote during the second round of the presidential election in Bogota, Colombia, June 17, 2018. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

From the sweltering Caribbean coast to the frigid heights of the Andes, voting was largely uneventful at the 11,230 polling stations across the nation. Marking of ballots was monitored by international election observers to guard against any fraud.

Petro, 58, had called on supporters to take to the streets if he felt there was widespread manipulation of the tally.

“Petro won more votes than I had expected, and that’s scary because it says that a great part of the country wants socialism,” said another Duque supporter, 77-year-old retired politician Roque Diaz.

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It was the first elections since a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which ended their part in a five-decade conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

Reporting by Steven Grattan and Helen Murphy, additional reporting by Dylan Baddour; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Diane Craft and Cynthia Osterman

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