BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) — Colombians choose their next president on Sunday in a ballot between a leftist and an unlikely real estate millionaire who promises to reshape the country after the first round of elections punishes the traditional political class. Is.
Following the opening of the elections, outgoing Conservative President Ivan Duque invited Colombians to vote and believe in institutions “with full confidence in the judgment of the people”. The government said it was aware of possible demonstrations after polling closed at 4:00 pm (9:00 am GMT) and rejected any acts of violence in advance.
After casting his vote, the leftist candidate Gustavo Petro invited mass voting to “defeat any fraudulent attempt” and, without showing evidence, that in some polling stations he would vote in a blank vote to “cancel the vote”. Will distribute pre-marked election cards. Will go for change.”
During the campaign, Petro has questioned the registry in charge of guaranteeing the legitimacy of the election, and has warned that he will analyze after the vote whether he accepts the results.
Petro’s words have sparked concern among some, such as 65-year-old pensioner Gabriel Escobar, who rose early to vote against Petro.
“If this Mr. Petro loses, he’s going to start a rebellion as usual… hopefully nothing serious will happen,” he told the Associated Press after voting in northern Bogota. Escobar believes that the country certainly needs change, but one that will not “disrupt” it. He assured that the tycoon Rodolfo Hernandez convinced him with his anti-corruption proposal and the possibility of giving “economic stability to the country”.
Polls show that Petro and upstart Hernandez – both former mayors – are virtually tied as they trounced four other candidates in an early May 29 election, with neither getting enough votes to win, forcing a runoff . About 39 million people are eligible to vote in Latin America’s third most populous country, but abstaining from voting in all presidential elections since 1990 has been above 40%.
That “change” they promise to embody doesn’t reassure everyone. 26-year-old Natalie Amazquita decides to cast the blank vote, although she knows it will have no real effect on the ballot, as whoever receives a simple majority will win. The civil engineer told the Associated Press, “I don’t like either of the two candidates, beyond considerations, the way one person is going to influence how they’re going to govern… You need to feel good.”
Colombians are voting amid widespread discontent over rising inequality, inflation and violence. Such is the hatred of the situation in the country that in the first round, voters turned their backs on ordinary centrist and right-wing politicians and elected two new people to the political scene.
Senator Petro, 62, is in his third presidential campaign. A victory for Petro would end a long-standing marginalization of the Left by voters because of its perceived affiliation with the country’s armed struggle. Petro was a rebel of the once defunct M-19 movement and was pardoned after signing a peace deal with the state in 1991.
Petro has proposed ambitious pension, tax, health and agricultural reforms, and changes to the way Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups. He received 40% and Hernandez 28% in last month’s elections, but when Hernandez began garnering anti-PT votes, the gap quickly narrowed.
Driven by voters’ desire for change, the Petro could become the latest political victory for the left in Latin America. Chile, Peru and Honduras all elected left-wing presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is leading the election for this year’s presidential election.
Meanwhile, 77-year-old Hernandez, who made his fortune in real estate, is not affiliated with any major political party and has ruled out alliances. His campaign, mainly run on TikTok and other social media platforms, was self-financed.
His proposals are based on the fight against corruption, for which he blames poverty and the loss of state resources that can be used for social programs. He seeks to reduce the size of the government by eliminating many embassies and presidential offices, turning the presidential palace into a museum, and reducing the use of the executive’s fleet of aircraft.
Hernández re-emerged late in the first-round campaign, defeating more traditional candidates and surprising many when he finished in second place. He has faced controversy, such as saying that he admires Adolf Hitler and then apologizing that he was referring to Albert Einstein.
Silvia Otero Bahamón, professor of political science at Universidad del Rosario, said that although both candidates are populists, who have “an ideology based on division between corrupt elites and pure people,” each sees its fight against the establishment differently. . ,
“Petro belongs to the poor, ethnic and cultural minorities of the most peripheral regions of the country, who are ultimately taken into account and invited to participate in democracy,” Otero explains. While Hernández’s people are “more ethereal, they are people who have been degraded by politics and corruption. It is a loose city, where the candidate reaches directly through social networks.
Polls show that the vast majority of Colombians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and reject President Duque, who was ineligible for re-election. The pandemic set back the country’s anti-poverty efforts by at least a decade. Official figures show that 39% of Colombians lived on less than $89 a month last year, a slight improvement from 42.5% in 2020.
The shift away from traditional presidential politics has caused fear among some in this conservative, mostly Roman Catholic country. Many people base their decisions on what they don’t want, rather than what they want.
“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t care who’s up against Petro, I’m going to vote for whatever other candidate represents, no matter who that person is,'” said one of the firm Control Risks. Senior analyst Silvana Amaya said. , “It works the other way too. Rodolfo is portrayed as that crazy old man, the communication genius and the extraordinary character that some people say, ‘I don’t care who I vote for, but I don’t want him to be my president’.
It will be difficult for both men to keep their promises as neither has a majority in Congress, which is the key to completing the reforms.
In recent legislative elections, Petro’s political movement won 20 seats in the Senate, a relative majority, but would still have to make concessions in negotiations with other parties. Hernandez’s political movement has only two congressmen in the House of Representatives, so he also has to make compromises with legislators whom he has repeatedly called “thieves”.
García Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.