Right-wing Duque leads Petro in Colombia election: poll

Right wing presidential candidate Ivan Duque speaks during an event in Bogota, Colombia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian right-wing presidential candidate Ivan Duque is holding onto his long-time lead over leftist Gustavo Petro, ahead of the country’s run-off election on June 17, an opinion poll published on Friday showed.

Duque, who has promised to overhaul the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and cut taxes, won the most votes in the first round election on May 27, with 39 percent. Ahead of the run-off, Duque has 55 percent support, Friday’s Centro Nacional de Consultoria poll said.

Petro, a former member of the M-19 rebel group and ex-mayor of Bogota, has 35 percent support, according to the survey, which has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Petro, who has promised to fight inequality, safeguard the FARC peace deal, ban open-pit mining and shift state-run oil company Ecopetrol to focus on renewable energy, won 25 percent in the May vote.

The run-off will pit the two top finishers from the May election and means Duque and Petro are now seeking support from backers of candidates no longer in the race.

Duque, who was handpicked by former President Alvaro Uribe and whose original coalition included the Conservative party and his own Democratic Center party, will also count on the support of the Liberal party in the second round.

The left-wing Democratic Pole party, which had backed third-place finisher Sergio Fajardo in the first round, said on Thursday it will now support Petro. The Green Party, also part of Fajardo’s coalition, has urged its supporters not to vote for Duque.

Fajardo has said he himself will hand in a blank ballot, a popular form of protest voting in the Andean country.

Meanwhile, current President Juan Manuel Santos’ centrist U Party has told its supporters they are free to vote as they please. The party backed former Vice President German Vargas in the first round in an effort to protect Santos’ hard-won peace deal with the FARC rebels, but Vargas came in a disappointing fourth.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Frances Kerry