Two anti-establishment candidates, Gustavo Petro, a leftist, and Rodolfo Hernández, a right-wing populist, won the top two spots in Colombia’s presidential election, dealing a blow to Colombia’s dominant conservative political class.
The two men will face each other in a runoff election on June 19 that promises to be one of the biggest in the country’s history. At stake is the country’s economic model, its democratic integrity and the livelihoods of millions of people pushed into poverty during the pandemic.
With more than 99% of the ballots counted on Sunday night, Mr. Petro obtained more than 40% of the votes, while Mr. Hernández obtained just over 28%. Mr. Hernández beat conservative establishment candidate Federico Gutiérrez, who was in second place in the polls, by more than four percentage points.
Mr Hernández’s unexpected victory in second place shows a nation eager to elect anyone not represented by the country’s top conservative leaders.
“It’s a vote against Duque, against the political class,” said Daniel García-Peña, a Colombian political scientist, referring to the current president, Iván Duque, who came to power four years ago with the support of the conservative party. the most powerful in the country. kingmaker, Álvaro Uribe.
Mr. Petro, the leftist, is a senator and former rebel who proposes an overhaul of the country’s capitalist economic system. He was due to face Mr. Gutiérrez next month.
Instead, voters decided Mr. Petro would face Mr. Hernández, a businessman and former mayor with an anti-corruption platform and Trumpian irreverence who was largely unknown until he just a few weeks ago.
The election was characterized by deep frustration with chronic poverty, inequality and growing insecurity. The country struggles with 10% inflation, a 20% youth unemployment rate and a 40% poverty rate.
At the same time, Invamer polls show growing distrust of almost every institution, including congress, political parties, the military, the police and the media.
Such widespread disillusionment has led many voters to dismiss two driving forces in Colombian politics, Peña-Garcia said: political dynasties dominated by a few families, and Uribismo, a hardline conservatism named after its founder. , Mr. Uribe, who was president from 2002 to 2010.
Mr. Petro and Mr. Hernández both offer new and radically different paths for the country.
If elected in the second round, Mr. Petro would be the first left-wing president in the country’s history. He proposes a broad expansion of social programs, while halting all new oil exploration, cutting off a key revenue stream.
Its base includes many Colombians who believe the right has let them down.
“It’s the awakening of many young people who have realized, really, that we lied to our grandparents and our parents,” said Camila Riveros, 30, a supporter of Petro. “They were sold a salvation story that wasn’t true.”
Mr. Hernández, a former mayor of a mid-sized city, has based his campaign around a single issue – jailing the corrupt – but his position on other issues is less clear.
He suggested combining ministries to save money and declaring a state of emergency for 90 days to fight corruption, raising fears he could shut down Congress or suspend mayors.
Some voters said they were drawn to Mr. Hernández’s promise. “I think his entrepreneurial view of things is comparable to Trump’s,” said Salvador Rizo, 26, a technology consultant who lives in Medellín.
“I think the other contestants are looking at a house on fire and they want to put that fire out and reveal the house,” he said. “What I think Rodolfo’s point of view is: that there is a house that can be a huge hotel in the future.”
Reporting was provided by Genevieve Glatsky of Bogotá.