- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

BOGOTA, Colombia (Agence France Presse) Colombia's two largest and most traditional political parties were routed in congressional elections here yesterday, with voters choosing in their stead a bevy of right-wing and left-wing independents.
Supporters of hard-line independent presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe did best in largely peaceful nationwide voting yesterday, followed, ironically, by supporters of Antonio Navarro Wolf, an ex-guerrilla from the demobilized M-19 rebel group swept into the Senate.
Congressional candidates from President Andres Pastrana's Conservative Party were routed, along with those from the Liberal Party, Colombia's largest and best-organized political organization. Liberals and Conservative presidents alternated power in Colombia throughout most of the 20th century.
Yesterday's balloting, which was largely peaceful, took place 18 days after Mr. Pastrana ended a 3-year-old peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America's most powerful rebel group.
The FARC has called on Colombians to refrain from balloting, but predictions of widespread violence turned out to be alarmist.
Colombian voters had to elect 102 senators and 166 representatives, the whole of the nation's Congress.
As of 10 p.m. last night, and with 90 percent of the votes counted, Liberals had 32 seats in the Senate down from 56 while Mr. Pastrana's Conservatives had 13 Senate seats, down from 17. The remainder was taken up by independent candidates, some supporting Mr. Navarro, others supporting Mr. Uribe, and still others backing personalities with no clear political stance.
Figures for the Chamber of Representatives were still preliminary.
Officials said that 95 percent of the country was calm, with isolated incidents of violence, including ballot-box burning, in remote rural areas.
In regions where right-wing paramilitaries were active, there was pressure to elect candidates of their choosing.


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