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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 16:17 GMT
Poll fails to inspire Colombian press
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe leaves the polling centre under heavy escort
A second term for President Uribe now seems guaranteed

Newspapers in Colombia view Sunday's legislative election with a mixture of relief and resignation, pleased with the relative absence of violence but with several criticising what they see as an absence of meaningful alternatives to the programme of President Alvaro Uribe.

As the parties supporting the president look set to make considerable gains which could give Mr Uribe a decisive advantage in May's presidential election, commentators paint a panorama which is far from encouraging.

A leading Bogota newspaper, El Espectador, laments what is sees as "the unacceptable penetration of crime in politics", pointing to the involvement of paramilitary groups and drugs traffickers in many rural areas.

It says that "faced with this crude reality", voters had to use their most assiduous judgement "to vote for candidates who were free of any suspicion".

Young people who wanted to vote found themselves orphans of proposals and ideas
El Colombiano

Despite its relief that the threatened onslaught of the Farc rebel group failed to materialise, the paper is nevertheless unhappy about the absence of competing political platforms, believing this "effectively turned the election into a plebiscite on the president's second term".

This theme is echoed in El Colombiano. "Young people who wanted to vote found themselves orphans of proposals and ideas."

Both El Espectador and El Colombiano pick up on the high level of abstention of the Colombian diaspora.

"The apathy of Colombians who live abroad is all too evident. These four million compatriots don't feel sufficiently represented," writes El Colombiano.

While criticising the electoral authorities for failing to sufficient training in the use of new voting cards, it nevertheless praises the electorate for "giving a good example of civic behaviour and civility and the armed forces for maintaining tranquillity".

Demands for action

"Uribe turns the screw," reads a headline in the influential El Tiempo. "The result gives the government a bigger majority than expected in Congress and practically confirms the re-election of President Alvaro Uribe."

"Yesterday's vote was also a resounding rejection of the Farc rebels," El Tiempo also argues.

The Cucuta paper La Opinion believes "the country faces many grave problems" and calls for a parliament "which expresses the opinions of all the different political forces".

We need a Congress that thinks big. This will require a change of mentality and much audacious action
La Republica

A leading business daily, La Republica, expresses particular concern over the state of the country's transport infrastructure and calls on the new parliament to take the bull by the horns.

"Colombia continues to be one of the most backward nations in the world in terms of roads, railways, navigable waterways, ports, airports, urban transit systems (apart from Bogota and Medellin)," the paper argues, calling for urgent action to make it more competitive.

"We need a Congress that thinks big. This will require a change of mentality and much audacious action."

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