Colombia goes to the polls on Sunday with unprecedented leadership from the left
- May 28, 2022
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Senator Gustavo Petro is the favorite to reach the second round in the elections in Colombia this Sunday, 29. But his opponent is still unknown.
THE Colombia this weekend is going through a presidential election that is going to be different from all the previous ones. The country of 51 million people goes to the polls for the first round this Sunday, 29, with the left-wing senator leading the polls. Gustavo Petro and a second wave still up for grabs.
The 62-year-old former mayor of the capital Bogotá, Petro has been leading the polls since the beginning of the campaign. The candidate has between just over 35% and 40% of voting intentions, depending on the poll. Despite his rejection in some sectors of the electorate, Petro is seen as almost confirmed in the second round.
The question is who your opponent will be. Second place is today Federico “Fico” Gutierreza right-wing candidate and former mayor of Medellín, who has between 20% and 25% of the vote.
He is closely followed by the construction tycoon Rodolfo Hernández, which today reaches 19% of voting intentions. Other right-wing and center-right candidates run outside.
There are still between 10% and 15% undecided. In addition, the expectation is that only about 50% or 60% of voters will vote, which also makes some of the projections difficult.
Praised for his tenure in Medellín, seen as a name for renewal at the age of 47 and a favorite candidate among the business community, Gutierrez is challenged to popularize his image among the poorest. He has also struggled to unlink his candidacy from the current president’s political group, Ivan Duquehighly unpopular after protests that have rocked Colombia in recent years, although he is not in the same party as Duque.
Hernández, at 77, was the candidate who grew the most in recent weeks. The businessman was mayor of the city of Bucaramanga and has radical right positions, having already publicly said that he admired German dictator Adolf Hitler and punched a councilor. Without being linked to a party, he says his goal is to strengthen the fight against corruption, violence and immigration in Colombia, and he has been successful on the internet – becoming a phenomenon on TikTok – as an anti-system candidate.
As in other recent Latin American elections, the election in Colombia will be marked by widespread distrust of voters with traditional politicians. Colombians’ confidence in democracy is also one of the worst in the region. The three favorites to go to the second round are politicians who have not been largely in the national government in recent years and sell themselves as some kind of renewal.
This year’s elections are made more unpredictable as they are the first in two decades that will not feature an official candidate from the right-wing former president’s group. Álvaro Uribe. Uribe ruled Colombia from 2002 to 2010 and made two successors: Juan Manuel Santos (with whom he would later break through a peace agreement with FARC guerrillas), and the current president, Iván Duque.
Duque cannot be re-elected under electoral laws. In addition, Uribe and Duque’s group lost popularity amid so-called “Colombian spring” protests in 2019 and, more recently, in 2021. The latest wave of protests came after a government-proposed tax reform that would raise taxes for the middle class. Duque was also criticized for police violence in the protests, with more than 60 dead across the country, most of them civilians.
After this Sunday’s elections, the second round, on June 19, tends to be fierce. Both Hernández and Fico Gutiérrez are close to Petro in the polls, and tend to gather votes from those who reject the left.
Petro, in turn, tries to surf the wave of rejection of the traditional right in Colombia and the favorable moment for the left in Latin America, with agendas such as reducing dependence on coal and fossil fuels, greater taxation of the richest and expansion of the State. Petro’s group was the big winner in Colombia’s legislative elections held this year. The Historic Pact alliance, which he led, tied the Conservatives and Liberals for strength in the Senate and House, a result unprecedented in recent history.
If elected, Petro would be the first leftist president in Colombia’s history.
The proposals of the senator – who in the past was a guerrilla and today moderated part of the speech – are in line with names of the new local left, such as the president of Chile, Gabriel Boric. Petro visited Boric at the new Chilean’s inauguration this year, and the Chilean president said he hopes to be able to collaborate with Petro if the Colombian is elected.
Former Brazilian president Lula also cited Petro in his interview with Time magazine and praised the Colombian, but said he disagreed with his proposal to move towards eliminating the use of oil, saying that this is not yet possible in Brazil.
Meanwhile, there is a risk that tensions will increase in Colombia, marked by historic political violence. Petro has received death threats, while the speech of a businessman who threatened to fire his employees if they voted for the senator caused controversy in recent weeks. From the vote this Sunday until the final decision by Colombians in June, the political scenario in the country will remain troubled.