A left-wing opposition party held a large advantage in the race for mayor of Colombia's capital entering yesterday's election after violence-marred regional campaigns across the nation.
While conservative President Alvaro Uribe remains widely popular, polls indicate that the party he defeated for the presidency last year may take the second most important elective post in the country -- Bogota mayor.
Samuel Moreno, grandson of a military dictator, held a lead of 40 to 22 percent over independent former Mayor Enrique Penalosa, according to a poll published Saturday by the newspaper El Tiempo. The survey by the Datexco company had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
Moreno's Alternative Democratic Pole already governs Bogota, but consecutive victories would be a boost for his party ahead of the 2010 presidential race. With nearly 7 million people, the capital is home to a sixth of Colombia's population.
Moreno has seemed to shrug off controversies -- notably a pro-Moreno article posted on a Web site favorable to Colombia's leftist guerrilla movements, and his statement in a debate that he would buy 50 votes if he knew his rival had purchased 50,000.
On Friday, Uribe issued an appeal for voters to reject Moreno, saying, "Don't make a mistake in electing mayors supported by the guerrillas who also buy votes."
At stake Sunday are 32 governorships, 1,098 mayorships and thousands of lesser offices.
In an effort to contain violence, the government has restricted the carrying of arms and banned the sale of alcohol until this morning.
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