Colombian left leads Presidential election race
Colombia is preparing to open polls for a new presidential election, amid the likelihood of a leftist candidate being elected in a historic move.
Colombia opened its polls earlier on Sunday, May 29 for the new presidential elections. The pre-election polls showed that Colombia, through the peoples’ choices, has decided to make a historic change and seeks to elect a leftist Presidential candidate.
Running under the slogan of change, these elections show that Gustavo Petro leads the race to become, if he wins, the first left-wing president in the country's modern history. 39 million voters were invited to cast their votes in 12,000 polling stations throughout Colombia. The people will choose their new president from among 6 candidates. The new president will succeed unpopular conservative president Ivan Duque who’s ineligible for a second term.
The elections are taking place in an atmosphere of extreme political tension. The first term for Duque witnessed no major reforms and was predominantly overshadowed by the pandemic, economic stagnation, mass demonstrations in the cities, and an exacerbation of violence by armed groups in the countryside.
Leftist senator Petro, currently leading the polls, was able to take advantage of the situation and turn it into an opportunity for real change.
“In the end, there are two choices: either we keep what we have, corruption, violence, and hunger, or we make a change to move towards peace, productive progress, and a transparent democracy, calling on citizens to unite ‘for life’,” said Petro.
This is the third time Petro, 62, runs for presidential elections, and several activists from his coalition, Historic Charter, believe that this election will be a turning point for the nation’s benefit. The Vice President candidate running with Petro, Francia Marquez, is a women’s rights and anti-racism activist. These two causes have become the leading points of interest for the people on the coalition’s electoral platform.
In parallel, conservative candidate Federico Gutierrez, former mayor of northwest Medellin, who appears to be receiving about 27% of the votes, presented himself as a defender of "ordinary" Colombians and promised to bring "order and security".
Last Friday, Gutierrez stated, "what I want is the unification of Colombia because it needs a change, but this change must of course lead us to safety without endangering the country."
Other than the leftist candidate Petro, Gutierrez is faced with stiff competition from independent candidate Rodolfo Hernandez, a 77-year-old businessman, who adopted populist rhetoric against corruption.
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In the event that candidate Petro does not achieve a 50% majority in the first round, there will be a second round of elections on June 19th of this year.
Preparations finalized amid fears of fraud
Amid a deeply polarized election campaign, leftist candidates, Petro and Marquez, have received death threats that necessitated perpetual protection for them through a barrier of bulletproof shields.
The Election Observation Mission, a coalition of NGOs, warned that recent days had revealed "a high level of violence and disinformation on social networks and in the media".
After the discrepancies that had occurred prior to the counting of votes in the legislative elections at the expense of his coalition, Petro expressed his concerns this past Friday about the "lack of guarantees and the occurrence of fraud" in the presidential elections, especially with regard to the program for counting the votes.
Petro’s Historic Coalition is prepared to engage about 69 thousand activists to oversee the electoral process to ensure democratic procession, while Gutierrez planned on having 61,500 activists to oversee the process. There will also be The Organization of American States and the European Union present to oversee the process.
The government deployed an additional 220,000 security personnel throughout the country, bringing the total number to 300,000, tasked with ensuring a peaceful electoral day, supervised by 690,000 observers.