Gustavo Petro elected first left-wing president in Colombia’s history

Gustavo Petro elected first left-wing president in Colombia’s history

It is a historic vote: the opponent Gustavo Petro became on Sunday the first leftist president in the history of Colombia, with the ambition to “change” a country in crisis and which has never known such an alternation .

Mr. Petro, 62, won 50.45% of the vote, against 47.30% for his competitor, businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, according to the official results of the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, relating to 99.95 % of ballots counted.

With 11.2 million votes in his favour, the senator is ahead of the businessman by nearly 700,000 votes (10.5 million), qualified as a surprise in the first round on May 29, who had supplanted the right-wing candidate. Turnout was 58%, the highest since the turn of the century.

– “Inescapable change” –

“Today is a day of celebration for the people. Let them celebrate the first popular victory,” the 62-year-old senator, ex-guerrilla and former mayor of Bogota, tweeted.

“May so much suffering be healed by the joy that today floods the heart of the country,” Mr. Petro said again.

“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”, he concluded, his face defeated.

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

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.

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 shows, his election evening, chanting on the big screen the slogans of campaign: “With Petro change is inevitable”, or “It’s all of Colombia that wins”.

“We are finally going to have change,” welcomed Lusimar Asprilla, 25, on the spot. “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.

– Many challenges –

This presidential election marks the rout of the conservative and liberal elites in power for two centuries in the fourth economic power of Latin America.

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

The fight was particularly bitter between the two men, with a campaign made up of accusations of all kinds, misinformation and countless low blows. The latest polls published a week ago gave the two men almost equal.

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 on the spot, congratulated Mr. Petro and his running mate for their victory and this “alternation which is part of democracy”, according to its ambassador Gilles Bertrand.

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.

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

After scouring the country with a hundred meetings before the first round, he has tried for the past three weeks to be closer to ordinary Colombians, anxious to correct his image as a man of too much speech, too authoritarian or with messianic tendencies. according to his opponents.

“I have devoted my career to the fight for social justice, against inequality and corruption”, still recalled in recent days this father of six children, promising to “govern by love and not by hatred” to reform a “a system run for so many years by the same people”.

Mr. Petro pledged to strengthen the state, to reform the pension system and tax to make the richest pay. Its first measure will be to suspend oil exploration and begin the energy transition as quickly as possible.

“A significant part of the country”, frightened in particular by its extreme left past, “did not want Petro as president”, underlines however Sergio Guzman, consultant Colombia Risk Analysis.

He will also have a lot to do to govern with a divided Parliament, where his coalition of the historic Pact is certainly the first force but which remains a usual stronghold of the conservatives and the liberals.

He will also have to overcome the reluctance within the army, of which he becomes the supreme leader, to face inflationary pressure and weak and politicized institutions, according to this same analyst.

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