BOGOTA, Colombia — A former defense minister promising to build on President Alvaro Uribe's security gains took an early but convincing lead Sunday in Colombia's presidential elections.
With 42 percent of the votes counted, Juan Manuel Santos had 46 percent against 22 percent for Antanas Mockus, a maverick outsider pledging clean government.
Santos was even winning in Bogota, seen as Mockus' stronghold, with 40 percent of the vote to 27 percent for the capital's former two-time mayor.
If no candidate in the field of nine wins a simple majority on Sunday, the two top vote-getters will meet in a June 20 runoff.
Third with 10 percent was German Vargas of Cambio Radical, which along with Santos' National Unity party belongs to Uribe's governing coalition.
The main opposition candidate, Gustavo Petro of the leftist Polo Democratico Alternativo, had nine percent support. Five other candidates shared the remaining votes.
Santos, a 58-year-old a Cabinet minister in three administrations, had been in a statistical dead heat in pre-election polls with Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former two-time Bogota mayor running on the Green Party slate.
Although generally peaceful, Sunday was marked by nearly two dozen firefights with leftist rebels that claimed the lives of at least three soldiers, a potent reminder that Colombia's half century-old conflict is far from resolved.