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Colombia: Leftist Gustavo Petro Wins First Round in Presidential Election

Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. Credit: Gustavo Petro Urrego/CC BY-NC 2.0

Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of the capital city, Bogotá, as well as an ex-militant, topped the poll in the first round of the Colombian presidential elections, taking around 40 percent of the vote on Sunday.

However, while Petro secured a twelve-percentage-point lead over his nearest rival, he did not gain the 50 percent needed to win outright. Petro will now face Rodolfo Hernández, dubbed Colombia’s Trump, in the second round on June 19th. Hernández won 28 percent of the popular vote.

Federico Gutiérrez, the candidate of the current government supported by the traditional right-wing, finished in third place with around 24 percent of the vote, leaving him out of the race.

If Petro, 62, wins he will be the first left-wing president in the country’s history. He has promised to fix the country’s deep inequalities and switch its reliance on fossil fuels to clean technology.

Gustavo Petro and the majority of the votes

Petro won in seventeen regions of the country, as well as in the capital, attaining around 8.5 million votes.

The leftist candidate will now have to focus on defeating Hernandez, who has received the support of all traditional right-wing political parties.

Hernandez is a 77-year-old construction businessman and former mayor of Bucaramanga running as an independent candidate. He campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket despite being under investigation for allegedly favoring a company his son had lobbied for.

The candidate with the second-highest vote Rodolfo Hernández. Credit: Youtube/Ing Rodolfo Hernández

Whoever wins next month’s elections will have to grapple with discontent over increasing inequality and inflation, as well as the legacy of the bloody war between leftist guerrillas and the state which a 2016 peace agreement was meant to end.

Iván Duque, the deeply unpopular outgoing president, was not allowed to stand again because he was restricted to a single term by the constitution.

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