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Colombia’s election rival: the World Cup

BOGOTA, Colombia — Will the beautiful game give a bicycle kick to Colombia’s democracy?

That’s what some election officials fear as they prepare for a June 20 presidential run-off.

Not only is pro-government candidate Juan Manuel Santos expected to win by a landslide victory but the election must compete with three World Cup matches that may keep voters glued to their televisions.

“Soccer could cause turnout to fall,” said Carlos Ariel Sanchez, who heads Colombia’s National Registry which is organizing the election.

Colombia’s national team didn’t even qualify for this year’s World Cup. But two other South American squads, Brazil and Paraguay, play on election day and most Colombians will be fervently rooting for their fellow Latinos.

Sanchez also raised the possibility of relatively empty voting booths for long stretches then bottlenecks as people rush out between matches to cast ballots.

Even without the distraction of one of the world’s great sporting events, only about half of the eligible voters cast ballots in the May 30 first-round vote. In that six-candidate contest, Santos easily defeated opposition candidate Antanas Mockus but fell just short of the 50 percent plus one vote required for outright victory.

Round two is shaping up to be even more of a blowout. A poll last week showed Santos leading Mockus 61.6 percent to 29.8 percent.