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Vote Likely to Result in Runoff

<i> From Reuters</i>

The nation prepared to vote for a new president today, bringing an end to the unpopular rule of Ernesto Samper, whose four-year term has been marred by top-level drug corruption scandals and civil conflict.

The most recent opinion polls showed the opposition Social Conservative Party candidate, Andres Pastrana, in the lead. None of the three major candidates, however, was likely to get more than 50% of the vote, thereby triggering a runoff between the top two contenders June 21.

Pastrana, 44, had 37.2% support in the latest Gallup Poll, published Thursday. Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa, 55, a former interior minister and Samper’s handpicked successor, was second with 31.2%.

The biggest surprise, however, has been the late surge in support for independent candidate Noemi Sanin Posada, 48, who rose from 10% in opinion polls last month to 23.4% recently. If elected, she would become the country’s first female president.

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Samper, constitutionally barred from running for reelection, will officially step down Aug. 7.


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