Voters in Colombia go to the polls to choose whether they want a left-wing president for the first time or a businessman with a diffuse agenda | World

Colombian voters go to the polls on Sunday (19) to choose whether the country’s next president will be Gustavo Petro, an economist and left-wing leader, or Rodolfo Hernández, a businessman who was once mayor of the city of Bucaramanga.

The country has never had a left-wing president, and Petro, who led the vote in the first round, is the politician on this ideological spectrum with the greatest chance of being elected.

Rodolfo Hernández, the opponent, is a 77-year-old engineer.

  • Who is Gustavo Petro? Ex-guerrilla is favorite in Colombian presidential elections
  • Who is Rodolfo Hernández, right-wing candidate in Colombia who surprised in the final stretch

Election in Colombia: Polls show leftist Petro and millionaire Hernández tied

Election in Colombia: Polls show leftist Petro and millionaire Hernández tied

In the first round, the votes of the candidates were as follows:

  • Gustavo Petro: 40.34%
  • Rodolfo Hernandez: 28.1

Polls indicate that the two candidates have similar voting intentions. Below are some projections:

Guarumo and EcoAnalytic Research published on June 11:

  • Rodolfo Hernandez: 48.2%
  • Gustavo Petro: 46.5%

Invamer research published June 10:

  • Rodolfo Hernandez: 48.2%
  • Gustavo Petro: 47.2%

Tracking from research firm GAD3 published June 10:

  • Rodolfo Hernandez: 47.9%
  • Gustavo Petro 47.1%

Voting starts at 8 am and ends at 4 pm this Sunday (19).

Petro is a former mayor of Bogotá and is currently a senator. He is a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, which renounced armed struggle in the late 1980s.

He proposed an ambitious $13.5 billion tax reform — equivalent to 5.5% of Colombia’s gross domestic product — financed by higher taxes on the richest.

He promised to improve social and economic conditions in a country where half the population lives in some form of poverty.

Hernández, a surprise run-off candidate, was buoyed by anti-corruption pledges, plans to shrink the government and housing for the poor.

However, he faces an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office for allegedly intervening in a garbage collection tender while mayor of Bucaramanga, to benefit a company his son lobbied for.

Hernández denies the allegations and supporters like his anti-establishment image.

Who is Gustavo Petro?  Ex-guerrilla is favorite for Colombia's presidency

Who is Gustavo Petro? Ex-guerrilla is favorite for Colombia’s presidency

The economy is one of the main themes of this year’s elections, and the two are trying to differentiate themselves on this theme, according to Fabio Sanchez, a professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at the Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá.

Hernández uses his image of an entrepreneur who could use his management skills for the country. “In his program, he talks about credits and subsidies so that the country can be competitive in international markets”, says Arboleda.

Petro proposes a change in the extractive model to a productive economy (in addition to being an agricultural producer, Colombia also exports oil and minerals). “This would involve an agrarian reform, which can generate great resistance in some sectors”, says the professor. The central issue of the economic discussion in the elections is how to manage to reduce poverty and improve the levels of development and industrialization, according to him.

left versus unknown

Despite Hernández’s economic discourse being closer to the right, the candidate today could not be classified as extreme right, says Fernanda Nanci Gonçalves, a professor at UFRJ and Unilasalle-RJ.

“It is difficult to define what his political spectrum is. He is certainly not on the left, but it is not correct at this point to claim that he is on the far right,” she says.

The professor says that Hernández, despite similarities with former President Donald Trump, of the United States, or with Jair Bolsonaro, of Brazil, is a different politician.

Who is Rodolfo Hernández?  Right-wing candidate runs for Colombian presidency

Who is Rodolfo Hernández? Right-wing candidate runs for Colombian presidency

“During the campaign, Hernandez said that if elected, he wants to reestablish relations with Venezuela, he has already said that he would not be against abortion, — and this is a scandal in an extremely religious society like Colombia — and he says that it is important to do a peace agreement with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, although he says his daughter was kidnapped and killed by the group. Not having a clear agenda is clearly a strategy he uses,” says Professor Gonçalves.

The similarities with Trump and Bolsonaro are more in the way of doing politics, she explains: the use of social networks (Hernández makes many videos on TikTok), the direct and objective speech, without beating around the bush, and the anti-corruption agenda, which appears in a insistent but vague (he does not say how he intends to fight corruption).

The decadence of Uribism

Hernández’s candidacy does not represent the traditional right in Colombia. This sector of politics is dominated by former president Álvaro Uribe. After leaving the presidency, Uribe managed to act to elect two allies: Juan Manuel Santos (later, the two broke up) and the current president, Iván Duque.

“Duque’s government has had the lowest approval rating since the 1990s, and there are many people against this government, which has resulted in a repulsion from the ‘Uribistas,’” says Andres Del Río, a professor of Political Science at the Fluminense Federal University ( UFF).

Difficulty to govern

Even before the elections, it can be said that the next president will have difficulties with the legislature.

The left-wing coalition has about 30% of Colombia’s legislature, and Hernández’s party is barely represented in Congress, says Andres. “Although the right has lost strength in Congress, it is still more or less half, although segmented into several parties. Whatever the president, there will be several negotiations with these parties,” he says.

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