Colombia's two front-running presidential candidates remained deadlocked less than ten days before the election, two opinion polls showed on Friday.
Juan Manuel Santos, a former defense minister under current President Alvaro Uribe, would tie with Antanas Mockus, a former Bogota mayor, in a first ballot on May 30, a Datexco poll said.
With neither candidate securing more than 50 percent for an outright win, they would face a run-off in June when they still would be tied, said the poll, published in local media.
Whoever wins the presidential race in the Andean nation will try to further cement security gains under Uribe that have brought large inflows of foreign investment and seen a boom in the commodity sector.
A poll by the Centro Nacional de Consultoria (CNC) found 39 percent would vote for Santos in the first round and 34 percent for Mockus. But Santos would be virtually tied in the second round with 47 percent against 46 percent for Mockus.
The CNC poll has a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points and used 3,000 telephone interviews.
Datexco -- whose data is based on personal interviews with 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 2.89 percentage points -- found that 52 percent of those surveyed said unemployment was the most important election issue for Colombians, followed by healthcare and education.
Analysts say Mockus will likely get a boost in a June rematch with Santos from Colombians who voted for other candidates, but Santos has a solid party machine that could give him the edge in the run-off.
The two new polls generally reflect other surveys that show a tightening race.
Both top candidates have promised continuity with Uribe's tough line against a waning Marxist insurgency and his investor-friendly government, but have vowed to increase tax revenues to tackle the deficit and boost jobs.
"This electoral uncertainty does not entail meaningful downside risk for the performance of Colombian assets as none of the candidates represent a meaningful departure (from Uribe's policies)," Barclays said in a research note.
The next leader will inherit a better security and investment climate, but also a spat with Venezuela that has hit the $7 billion-a-year trade and a deficit as the nation tries to boost growth after a global economic crisis.
ReutersLast Mod: 21 Mayıs 2010, 18:44