Colombia's left takes the lead moving to 2nd round of elections
Colombia's left make a historic advance in the first round of the Presidential elections with the right-wing candidate is edged out.
Colombians voted for change at the ballots in the Presidential elections. On Sunday, Gustavo Petro, 62-year-old leftist ex-guerrilla and former Bogota mayor, took the lead by accounting for 40.3% of the votes after 99% of votes have been counted.
Petro is leading in the presidential race with a possibly historic ending that could make him Colombia’s first-ever leftist President in recent history. Meanwhile, Rodolfo Hernandez comes in second. Hernandez, a 77-year-old millionaire and himself an ex-mayor, is running as an independent and snatched second place with 28% of the votes. With that, Hernandez denies Petro the majority and now the two will take to the second round of elections later in June.
Hernandez, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, pushed out right-wing candidate Federico Gutierrez, former mayor of Medellin and the political successor of the current residing President.
Petro vowed Sunday to uphold his word and work to establish real change focusing on social justice and economic stability.
"A company cannot grow if society is impoverished. Profits cannot grow sustainably if the majority of the population (suffers from) hunger," he said.
The tainting of democracy and the left
In his leading speech, Petro took the plaster off Hernandez, who had said that the Colombian people are "serious about ending corruption as a system of government”, and pointed out that he is under investigation for a graft allegation. Petro asked the people that sought radical changes: “Is this what we want?”
Hernandez, who ran on anti-establishment and populist rhetoric, said that the results showed Colombians were "serious about ending corruption as a system of government." Gutierrez, despite being edged out, urged his voters to support Hernandez in his face-off with Petro as he taints the left, once again, as a "guerilla machine threatening democracy."
"We do not want to lose the country and we will not put at risk the future of Colombia, of our families, our children," Gutierrez said.
Colombia has been marked by deep-rooted conflict, however, with the left receiving 40.3% of the votes, accounting for more than 8.5 million Colombians, claims of the people fearing the political left were obliterated. On the other hand, push-back against Petro also showed that rivals found benefit in painting him as a radical.
Some 12,000 polling stations were open for eight hours Sunday. 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 to address security concerns as elections are held just one year after a security crackdown on street protesters.
The millions of Colombians that had voted for Petro, hope that he will address poverty, violence, and corruption.
Hernandez, who, allegedly, is not aligned to a political party but has been supported by the right-wing candidate, garnered 5.9 million votes and Gutierrez 5.0 million.
Ivan Duque is leaving office with record disapproval as he comes to the end of his four-year term. Petro, who lost to Duque in 2018, had come on top of the first round of elections and will face a difficult second round as Hernandez and Gutierrez form an electoral coalition against the left.
40% of the 50 million Colombian people have lived in poverty for decades as the country has been facing high levels of income inequality according to the World Bank. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation radically leaving one in every six people unemployed in the cities.