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Colombia's Uribe calls for repeat of '06 election PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 30 June 2008

BOGOTA, Fri Jun 27,( - Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called on Thursday for a rerun of the 2006 presidential election in which he won a second term, after the Supreme Court ruled it was tainted by corruption.

The Supreme Court found that a former lawmaker was bribed to support a constitutional amendment that allowed the popular president to seek an unprecedented second consecutive term.

Uribe said Congress should approve a referendum to allow voters to decide if a repeat election will be held. That would take the matter out of the hands of the courts, with which Uribe has feuded over his hard-line policies.

"The right path has to be democratic rule," Uribe said on TV following the court decision.

The Supreme Court sentenced ex-Congress member Yidis Medina to nearly four years of house arrest for accepting illegal favors from government officials in exchange for supporting the reelection bill.

The court also asked constitutional authorities to determine whether Uribe's re-election was legal in light of the bribery, raising the possibility that it could be overturned.

Uribe, in his television address, accused court judges abusing their power.

With Medina sentenced, charges are expected to be filed against the officials she says induced her vote by promising she would be able to name her friends to local government commissions in her home province of Santander.

Colombia's Congress last month opened a preliminary inquiry into whether Uribe, the staunchest ally of the United States in South America, was directly involved. The case could further complicate efforts in Washington to pass a free trade agreement with Colombia.

Uribe is popular for cutting crime and sparking economic growth while cracking down on leftist insurgents. He had been leaving open the possibility of another change in law that would allow him to run again in 2010.

The Yidis scandal comes on top of investigations linking some of Uribe's closest congressional allies to far-right death squads. Dozens of coalition members are accused of using paramilitary thugs to intimidate voters.

The cases have helped bog down passage of the trade pact being blocked by U.S. Democrats concerned about Uribe's human rights record in a country that has suffered decades of guerrilla war funded by the cocaine trade.

At one meeting at the presidential palace, Medina said Uribe walked in and asked her to vote for the reelection measure, assuring her that his administration would honor its commitments to her.

But the government did not deliver on all its promises, which she says led her to go public.

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