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Colombian president ratings move up again, would win election

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' popularity rose for a second straight month in November and a poll published on Tuesday showed he would be re-elected next year in a second-round vote.

Santos' popularity increased to 36.9 percent from 29 percent in an October poll. A Gallup survey showed he would win 27 percent of the vote if a first-round presidential election scheduled for May took place now. The poll said Santos would take 39.4 percent in a second ballot and win the presidency.

A candidate needs more than 50 percent to win the presidency in the first round, while the second round goes to the candidate with the most votes.

Santos would beat opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who represents former President Alvaro Uribe's new political party. Zuluaga would receive 14.9 percent support in the May round of voting and 29.5 percent in June, according to the poll, which was conducted between November 1 and 6.

As many as 30.6 percent of Colombians would cast blank votes in the first round, an indication that they are not satisfied with Santos and do not yet know much about the alternative candidates, Jorge Londono, head of Gallup pollster, told Reuters.

Santos has until November 25 to reveal whether he intends to seek a second straight term in office. His approval ratings, which have slumped in the past few months, were given a boost last week when the government and Marxist FARC rebels reached agreement on the second, and possibly toughest, item on a five-point peace agenda.

Santos took office in 2010 with an approval rating of 74 percent and maintained decent ratings through the beginning of peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But the initial euphoria soon wore off as Colombians judged the yearlong negotiations would yield little.

The new poll showed an improvement in Santos' popularity for a second month. In September his support slumped to a record low after a two-week farmers' strike was broadcast on television with images of riot police wearing armor confronting workers dressed in ponchos.

Zuluaga's popularity reached 25.6 percent in the November poll, up from 17 percent in October.

Gallup spoke to 1,200 people in more than 50 cities and towns across Colombia. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Bill Trott)

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