Colombia’s presidential race heads for a runoff between a leftist senator and a populist businessman

Colombians will choose for president between a leftist senator and a populist businessman in a runoff in June after none of the six candidates in Sunday’s first round won 50% of the vote.

Left-leaning Senator Gustavo Petro led Sunday’s results with just over 40% of the vote, while independent real estate mogul Rodolfo Hernandez finished second with more than 28%, election officials said Sunday evening. . A candidate needed 50% of the total votes to win the ballot and the second round.

Voters in the South American country headed to the polls amid a polarized environment and growing discontent over rising inequality and inflation.

Petro has promised to make major adjustments to the economy, including tax reform, and to change the way Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups.

Hernandez has few ties to political parties and promises to cut wasteful government spending and offer rewards to people who speak out against corrupt officials.

People voted Sunday in Bogota. Colombian voters headed to the polls amid a polarized environment and growing dissatisfaction with rising inequality and inflation. (Vannessa Jiménez/Reuters)

A victory for Petro would usher in a new political era in a country that has historically been ruled by conservatives or moderates while marginalizing the left due to its perceived association with the country’s armed conflict. He was once a rebel in the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being imprisoned for his involvement with the group.

It was the second presidential election held since the government in 2016 signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC for its initials in Spanish. But the divisive deal was not a main issue during the campaign, which focused on poverty, inflation and other challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.

The candidates also focused on increasing violence, which the Red Cross said in 2021 reached its highest level in five years. Although the peace agreement is being implemented, the territories and drug trafficking routes formerly controlled by the FARC are in conflict between other armed groups such as the National Liberation Army, a guerrilla group founded in the 1960s, FARC dissidents and the Clan del Golfo cartel.

Petro and his running mate, Francia Marquez, have significantly increased their security after reporting threats against them. A dozen bodyguards sometimes escorted them with shields.

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