Colombia | Left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro elected president

(Bogota) This is a historic vote: opponent Gustavo Petro on Sunday became the first left-wing president in Colombia’s history, with ambitions to “change” a country in crisis that has never seen such a change.

Posted at 9:24 am
Updated at 6:48 p.m

Herve BAR
Media Agency France

Mr Petro, 62, won 50.45% of the vote versus 47.30% for his competitor, businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, according to official results of Sunday’s second round of presidential elections, accounting for 99.95% of the votes counted.

With 11.2 million yes votes, the senator is almost 700,000 votes (10.5 million) ahead of the businessman, who was surprisingly qualified in the first ballot on May 29 and had ousted the right-wing candidate. Voter turnout was 58%, the highest since the turn of the century.


Photo LUISA GONZALEZ, Archive REUTERS

The elected candidate Gustavo Petro

“Inevitable Change”

“Today is a holiday for the people. Let him celebrate the first popular victory,” the 62-year-old senator, ex-guerrilla and former mayor of Bogota celebrated on Twitter.

“May so much suffering be healed by the joy that is flooding the heart of the country today,” Mr Petro continued.


Photo Ivan Valencia, Associated Press

Defeated candidate Rodolfo Hernandez

“I accept the result as it is,” Mr. Hernandez said in a short live stream on Facebook from his home.

“I wish the Dright Gustavo Petro for knowing how to run the country and being faithful to his anti-corruption speech,” he concluded with a downcast face.

Outgoing Conservative President Ivan Duque said on Twitter he called the winner “to congratulate him” and agreed to “meet him in the coming days to start a smooth, institutional and transparent transition”.

Mr Petro’s victory marks the first time an Afro-descendant will become the country’s vice president: the charismatic Francia Marquez, 40, a humble villager-turned-environmental activist who has played a huge part in the campaign as a running mate for the candidate.

The announcement of these results caused cheers in the large auditorium in central Bogota, where Mr. Petro’s campaign team organized their election night with music and shows and sang campaign slogans on the big screen: “With Petro, change is inevitable” or “All of Colombia wins.” “.

“We’re finally going to change,” said Lusimar Asprilla, 25, on site. “This is the change that the entire Colombian people has been aspiring to for more than a hundred years,” said Edgar Sarmiento, a 72-year-old retiree.

Many challenges

This presidential election marks the defeat of the conservative and liberal elites who have held power in Latin America’s fourth economy for two centuries.

The two first-round qualifiers prevailed with a disruptive and “anti-establishment” speech, Mr. Petro (40%) delivered a “progressive” and social pro-“life” speech, while Mr. Hernandez (28%) promised to put an end to corruption, a widespread disease in the country.

The fight between the two men was particularly bitter, with a campaign of accusations of all kinds, misinformation and countless blows. The latest polls, released a week ago, showed the two men were almost level.

As in the first round, no major incident disturbed this second round, which was overseen by a cohort of observers and international missions.

The European Union (EU), which had a mission on the ground, congratulated Mr Petro and his running mate on their victory and this “change which is part of democracy”, according to their Ambassador Gilles Bertrand.

The close-result hypothesis has raised concerns in recent days, as the Petro camp has expressed doubts about the reliability of the voting process and, in particular, the counting software.


Photo LUISA GONZALEZ, Archive REUTERS

Almost 320,000 police officers and soldiers will ensure the security of the election under the watchful eyes of many international observers.

This election came against the backdrop of a deep post-pandemic crisis in the country, a severe recession, brutally repressed anti-government demonstrations and an increase in violence by armed groups in the countryside.

This is the third time Mr Petro has run for president, the last time being in 2018.

After scouring the country with a hundred meetings before the first round, he has spent the last three weeks trying to get closer to ordinary Colombians in an attempt to correct his image as a man who talks too much, is too authoritarian or has messianic tendencies towards his opponents .

“I have dedicated my career to the fight for social justice, against inequality and corruption,” the father of six recalled in the past few days and promised to “govern with love and not with hate,” a “system that was run for it.” to reform many years by the same people”.

Mr Petro vowed to strengthen the state, reform the pension system and taxes to bring in the richest wages. Their first action will be to suspend oil production and start the energy transition as soon as possible.

“A significant part of the country,” particularly frightened by its far-left past, “didn’t want Petro as president,” stresses Sergio Guzman, adviser on Colombia’s risk assessments.

He will also have work to do to govern with a divided parliament in which his historic Pact coalition is certainly the first force but remains a usual stronghold of Conservatives and Liberals.

According to the same analyst, he must also overcome reluctance within the army, of which he will become supreme leader, to confront inflationary pressures and weak and politicized institutions.

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