Colombia chooses Gustavo Petro, first left-wing president in its history

Colombia chooses Gustavo Petro, first left-wing president in its history

The opponent and senator Gustavo Petro became Sunday, June 19 the first leftist president in the history of Colombia, winning over his independent opponent Rodolfo Hernandez. Mr. Petro, 62, won 50.49% of the vote, against 47.25% for his competitor, according to the official results of the second round of the presidential election, covering 99.7% of the ballots counted.

With 11.2 million votes in his favor, he is nearly 700,000 votes ahead of the businessman (10.5 million), qualified as a surprise in the first round on May 29, who had beaten the right-wing candidate, which had until now always presided over the country.

“A harmonious, institutional and transparent transition”

“Today is a day of celebration for the people. Let him celebrate the first popular victory”, celebrated on Twitter the 62-year-old senator, ex-guerrilla and former mayor of Bogota. “May so much suffering be healed by the joy that today floods the heart of the country. This victory for God and for the people and its history. Today is the day of streets and squares”he still launched.

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“The majority of citizens chose the other candidate. (…) I accept the result as it is”said Mr. Hernandez in a brief live on Facebook from his home. “I wish Dr. Gustavo Petro that he knows how to lead the country and that he is faithful to his speech against corruption. Thank you very much to all the Colombians for accepting my proposal, even though we lost”he concluded, his face defeated.

“I called @PetroGustavo to congratulate him as the elected president of the Colombian people”also have announced on Twitter outgoing conservative president, Ivan Duque. “We have agreed to meet in the coming days to begin a smooth, institutional and transparent transition”added Mr. Duque, who could not represent himself.

“Finally the change”

With the victory of Mr. Petro, an Afro-descendant becomes vice-president of the country for the first time: the charismatic Francia Marquez, 40, a modest villager who has become an environmental activist, and who played a big role in the campaign as the candidate’s running mate.

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This presidential election has consecrated the deep thirst for change of the Colombians, and sweeps away the conservative and liberal elites in power for two centuries in the fourth economic power of Latin America.

Supporters of Gustavo Petro celebrate his victory in the presidential election, in Cali, Colombia, June 19, 2022.

The announcement of these results provoked jubilation in the large auditorium in the center of Bogota where Mr. Petro’s campaign team organized, with music and entertainment, its election evening. “We are finally going to have change”welcomed Lusimar Asprilla, 25 years old. “It’s something that the whole country was waiting for”. “This is the change to which all the Colombian people have aspired for more than a hundred years”exulted Edgar Sarmiento, a 72-year-old retiree.

An election without major incident, in a context of crisis

The two first-round qualifiers came out on top with a breakup speech and “anti-establishment”Mr. Petro (40%) delivering a speech “progressive” and social, in favor ” of life “ and against poverty, while Mr. Hernandez (28%) promised to put an end to corruption, an endemic disease of the country.

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The fight was particularly bitter between the two men, with a campaign made up of accusations of all kinds, misinformation and other low blows. The latest polls released a week ago gave the two men a near tie, as the traditional right, in disarray, immediately called for a vote in favor of the real estate magnate.

As during the first round, no major incident disturbed this second round, monitored by a cohort of observers and international missions. The European Union (EU), which had a mission there, congratulated Mr. Petro through the voice of its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, for his “election as the next president of Colombia”. The hypothesis of a result that is too tight has caused concern in recent days, when the Petro camp had expressed doubts about the reliability of the electoral process, and of the counting software in particular.

This election took place in a context of deep crisis in the country, after the pandemic, a severe recession, harshly repressed anti-government demonstrations, and an increase in violence by armed groups in the countryside. In a divided country, which emerged even more polarized from this presidential election, all analysts insist on the immense task that awaits the new president to recompose a fractured society.

The World with AFP