• Short Summary

    On Sunday the people of Colombia cast their votes in elections which are crucial to the country's future.

  • Description

    On Sunday the people of Colombia cast their votes in elections which are crucial to the country's future.

    Colombia, and neighbouring Venezuela, are the last bastions of democracy on the South American continent, and some political observers say Colombia's democracy is too shaky to last.

    In the nationwide poll, Colombians will chose their Parliamentary representatives for the next two years-but the elections will also determine who will be the next ruler of the republic.

    More than 12 million 300 thousand people are eligible to vote for some ten and a half thousand candidates for Congressional Departmental (provincial) and municipal posts-the majority of them now held by the Liberal party.

    The Liberals and the other traditional party-the Conservatives are hoping will end their traditional abstention-caused by an apathy resulting from a power sharing agreement between the Liberals and Conservatives reached in 1957 to end a decade of civil warfare. Voters could only confirm candidates agreed on previously by both parties.

    But now its a free for all. And the Liberal party, which holds power, is split down the middle between two candidates. They are former President CARLOS LLERAS RESTREPO 69-a former President, and Julia CESAR TURBAY AYALA 62, a former foreign minister.

    In an effort to heal the rift, the party headed by President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen agreed last year that the Parliamentary elections would also serve as the party's Presidential primary.

    The contender whose supporters win the most seats in the election will automatically be ??? Presidential candidate in a party convention.

    Since recent voting trends show the electorate favouring the Liberals by a wide margin, the man who emerges as primary winner on Sunday is almost certain to be elected next President of Colombia. (FYI no results expected till Tuesday night-and even then they won't be official).

    Dr Lleras says he wants to complete the government programme he started during his rule 1966-1970 which included emphasis on economic and social developments projects and the eliminations of corruption.

    Turbay says he plans to concentrate on curbing inflation (29 per cent last year) increasing employment and fighting crime.

    Crime is a big issue-especially in the overcrowded capital of Bogota, and on at least one occasion the military warned the government to take stranger measures against crime, kidnapping and terrorism. There are a number of urban and rural terrorist movements which are active in Colombia.

    There's a complete ban on the sale of liquor during the elections, and all forms of rallies, meeting and demonstrations are banned.

    This week, the people of Bogota were surprised to see these military patrols throughout the capital. Heavily armed groups of men pacing the streets. The military promised to protect the people against terrorist attacks, saying it had evidence that extremists wanted to disrupt the elections.

    The opposition Conservative party is also split into factions surrounding its two leading figures former President PASTRANA BORRERO and GOMEZ HURTADO.

    Both however are supporting lawyer BELISARIO BETANCUR 55 as the party's candidate for the Presidential elections later this year.

    There are also a host of left wing groups fighting the Parliamentary elections but they are govern little chance of making any significant inroads into the strength of the two traditional parties.

    Commenting on the rumours of a possible coup, armed forces commander general LUIS CARLOS CAMACHO said this month "Democracy is the reason for the armed forces' existence."
    President Lopez says the state of seige will not be lifted during the elections.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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