- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2006

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — President Alvaro Uribe was re-elected in a landslide yesterday in Colombia’s most peaceful election in more than a decade, strengthening the U.S. ally’s mandate to crack down on armed groups and drug traffickers.

The Harvard-educated Mr. Uribe’s win marks the first time in more than a century that an incumbent Colombian leader has been elected to a second term and bucks a trend of leftist leaders taking office across South America in recent years.

With 96 percent of the ballots counted, Mr. Uribe scored a stronger than expected 62 percent of the vote, according to official results.

In second place, with 22 percent of the votes, was Sen. Carlos Gaviria of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole party. The support for Mr. Gaviria confirms the growing strength of the democratic left in this conservative South American nation. In third place was Horacio Serpa, of the century-old Liberal Party, with slightly less than 12 percent of the vote.

“We’re very happy with the results,” Mr. Gaviria told Caracol Radio last night after recognizing his defeat. “For the first time in the country’s history, the main opposition party will be comprised of the democratic left.”

The vote took place amid relative calm, underscoring one big reason Colombians backed Mr. Uribe. The Conservative is credited with bringing down crime rates and violence.

There were no reported attacks on voters during the elections, but the armed forces reported killing 12 rebels in a series of clashes with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia over the weekend.

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