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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Fraud claims over Colombia vote

Published 16/06/2014 | 04:17

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With the word "peace" written on his hand, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos waves during a victory rally next to first lady Maria Clemencia Rogriguez (AP)

Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe has accused his successor of committing what he calls "the biggest corruption in history" to win re-election in a vote.

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Just moments after president Juan Manuel Santos' victory speech Sunday night, Mr Uribe appeared on television to accuse the incumbent's campaign of widespread vote-buying to achieve his 53%-to-47% victory over Mr Uribe's hand-picked challenger, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

However, Mr Zuluaga made no such claims in a gracious concession speech a few hours earlier.

Uribe also claimed that leftist rebels had used armed intimidation against pro-Zuluaga voters.

He presented no evidence for his claims. Independent election observers did not report serious irregularities.

Mr Santos convincingly won re-election after Colombia's tightest presidential contest in years. His triumph is seen as an endorsement of his 18-month-old peace talks to end the Western Hemisphere's longest-running conflict.

More than 600,000 voters cast "blank" ballots, a protest vote for neither candidate.

Mr Zuluaga and Mr Uribe had accused the president of selling Colombia out in slow-slogging Cuba-based negotiations, and said Mr Zuluaga would halt the talks unless the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the Farc, ceased all hostilities and some of its leaders accepted jail time.

Mr Santos said the win affirmed his claim to be ably steering Colombia through a historic moment - out of a crippling conflict that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, mostly civilians.

"This is the end of more than 50 years of violence in our country and it is the beginning of a Colombia with more justice and social inclusion," Mr Santos told cheering supporters.

"In four, years no-one will regret having voted for us."

He flashed his palm emblazoned with the word "Paz," or peace - his campaign slogan. Many palms in the crowd were similarly inscribed.

A Farc spokeswoman in Havana said the rebels had no comment on the election's results.

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