Allies of the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe face a key test as the country votes in parliamentary elections ahead of May’s presidential race. The Uribe alliance is seeking to strengthen its position in Congress, building on the president’s popularity for tackling left-wing rebels and cocaine traffickers.
Uribe himself is barred from running again for the presidency, after a court ruled against a referendum to amend the constitution and allow him to stand. The decision opens up the field for May’s election.
The parliamentary vote features candidates ranging from former hostages to footballers and beauty queens.
A strong showing from pro-Uribe forces will benefit the former defence minister vying to succeed the president and continue the tough line against guerrillas.
The parliament was tarnished during Uribe’s second term by a scandal linking MPs, including the president’s allies, to drug-smuggling paramilitaries who massacred peasants.
It is feared that armed groups could influence voting in many rural areas.