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Colombian presidential candidates prepare for runoff

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Election not as close as expected
  • Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus will meet in runoff
  • Vote results made it look like Mockus had poor showing
  • Santos defends fight against the FARC

Bogota, Colombia (CNN) -- What was trumpeted as an expected photo-finish in last Sunday's presidential election in Colombia turned out to be not so close, something that caught the two leading campaigns off guard, their respective candidates told CNN.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos received 47 percent of the votes, placing him in a runoff with former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus who garnered 22 percent of the vote. Pollsters had placed the top two candidates in a statistical dead heat in the days leading up to the election.

"It's very interesting because compared to what the polls expected, we didn't do well," Mockus said in an interview with CNN en Español's Patricia Janiot. "It's as if they told you that you would win a lottery of 10 (million dollars) and you only win five."

The expectations created by the polls created a point of reference that makes it look like his Green Party had a poor showing, Mockus said.

The point of reference to focus on, Mockus said, is the trajectory of the increasing number of votes that his party has gained compared to previous elections.

Compared to how many votes the Green Party received in legislative elections in March, just making the runoff is a huge victory, he said.

"Without the polls, we would be feeling totally different today," Mockus said.

Because of the wide margin of Santos' lead, some have called on Mockus to resign from the second round of voting to save the money associated with the additional campaigning.

Mockus said he will not heed those calls, and said that in his head, he believes he can be Colombia's next president.

The key, Mockus said, is to appeal to the 51 percent of Colombians who did not vote on Sunday. The message that his campaign wants to take to those who stayed away from the polls is that they have the chance to write the next chapter of Colombia's history, he said.

Santos garnered as many votes as he did because "we had a very well-designed campaign," he told CNN en Español. "Our platform was the one the people wanted to hear."

The results were a reflection of how thankful Colombians were to current President Alvaro Uribe, said Santos, who is Uribe's designated successor.

One of the reasons why people expected a closer race was because of the scandals that have haunted the Uribe administration, especially relating to the fight against the FARC guerrillas.

One of the bigger scandals revolved around so-called "false positives" -- cases were the Colombian Army was accused of killing civilians who were then presented as guerrilla casualties to inflate the body count.

Some observers said that as defense minister, Santos would be stained by the scandal.

The vote seemed to indicate otherwise.

"In my government there will be no false positives," Santos said.

The candidate also said there were parts of Mockus' platform that he liked and could implement, such as a focus on science and technology.

Another hot topic in Colombia is its relationship with neighboring Venezuela. Tensions have been running high between the two countries over accusations of each country trying to destabilize the other.

Santos has carried a hard line against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but said he would like to see relations between the two improve.

"I think that the governments of Colombia and Venezuela are governments that should have cordial relations," he said.