Technical draw causes suspense in Colombia’s presidential elections

posted on 06/19/2022 07:01

  (credit: Daniel Munoz/AFP)

(credit: Daniel Munoz/AFP)

As soon as the polls close at 4 pm today (6 pm in Brasília), the eyes of the 49 million Colombians, but also of all Latin America, will be on the announcement of who will occupy the Nariño Palace for the next four years. On the one hand, Senator Gustavo Petro, 62, a former mayor of Bogotá and a member of the M-19 guerrilla in the 1980s, is trying to bring the left into government for the first time. On the other hand, Rodolfo Hernández — a 77-year-old engineer whose fortune amounts to $100 million, and a political outsider who bet on TikTok — is also seeking the feat of reaching the heights of power.

Both Petro and Hernández propose a radical shift, a break with traditional Colombian politics. The two reach the second round tied in voting intentions, after a campaign marked by strong polarization and fears of murder.

In the first round, on May 29, Petro won with 40% against 28% of the votes. Hernández was the big surprise, beating right-wing Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez after a meteoric rise in the polls. The second most unequal country on the continent decides its future, today, between diametrically opposed government programs.

With a background in economics, Petro defines himself as a “moderate rebel” and attracts distrust among conservative sectors, ranchers and a wing of business and militarism. In addition to discarding the nationalization of private property, he proposes stopping oil exploration, shifting the economy to cleaner energy, expanding food production and reforming the rules of promotion within the military.

For his part, Hernández won the label of eccentric. He caused controversy when he confessed to being “a follower of a great German thinker, whose name is Adolf Hitler”. Later, he said he was wrong and that he was referring to the physicist Albert Einstein. To become president, he bets on an anti-corruption program and presents himself as an anti-system, a defender of capitalism and austerity. Among his proposals are the closing of embassies, the deportation of millions of Venezuelan migrants and allowing all Colombians to know the sea. He also defended distributing drugs to addicts as a way to eliminate drug trafficking and promised to make a mockery of lawmakers who do not support his measures.


In an interview with Correio, Ernesto Samper — president of Colombia between 1994 and 1998 and secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), from 2014 to 2017 — admitted that polarization took over the campaign. “In today’s elections, reasons will not be at stake, but emotions. People will vote against the enemy, not in favor of the friend. The vote is historic because, after many years of armed conflict and thanks to the Havana Peace Accords, half of society, which was immersed in the stigmatization of their political participation, confusing it with armed struggle, will go out to vote. I believe they will do so en masse, in order to choose the first leftist government in Colombia”, he declared.

Samper warned that if the traditional political establishment tries to prevent, through fraud, magnicide or dirty maneuvers, the “legitimate expression of change”, the people will seek in the streets what they think they are being denied in democracy. The former president did not spare criticism of Hernández, who went into exile in Miami, faced with alleged assassination threats. “His campaign wagered on demagogic polarization and unfulfilled or simply innocuous offers on Colombia’s big problems,” he said.

Alejandro Bohorquez-Keeney, a political scientist at the Faculty of Finance, Government and International Relations at Universidad Externado de Colombia (in Bogotá), explained that the most recent polls are too tight, which prevents a clearer projection of the winner. “Both Hernández and Petro present outsider postures, they are distinct from the traditional political class. And Colombian voters will clearly punish the traditional vote. In fact, Colombia remains a traditionalist and conservative society. Fear of the left harms Petro,” he told the report by telephone.

Alejandro does not see Hernández’s project as far-right. “I would say it is a radical right, in the style of former president Álvaro Uribe or Jair Bolsonaro. It is not part of a nationalist-populist movement, as we see in the Europe of Marine Le Pen (France) or Gert Wilders (Holland). )”, he noted. The expert classifies Hernández’s ideology as “exaggerated populism”.

Alejandro’s college classmate, Magda Catalina Jiménez Jiménez told the Courier that polls show very little oscillation between candidates. “In the first round, the polls were not able to predict the victory of Hernández. Therefore, it is difficult to use them as decision indicators. The most important thing is that the results of the polls are respected.” According to her, a relatively greater difference between the elected and the second place would be a positive factor, in terms of contributing to the legitimacy of the next president.

Magda points out that both Petro and Hernández are populist figures. “The right-wing candidate shows a traditional, agricultural, territorial and more conservative country. Petro’s values, in turn, are more urban and progressive in terms of rights. The trends involve a broader left and right. To me, the populism presented by Hernández is very similar to that of Abdalá Buracaram, who ruled Ecuador between 1996 and 1997. He is an anti-system and business figure who has no experience in government,” he added.

Two questions for…

  (credit: Micaela Ayala V./Andes/Wikipedia)

credit: Micaela Ayala V./Andes/Wikipedia

Ernesto Samper Pizano, President of Colombia (1994-1998) and Secretary General of Unasur (2014-2017)

Based on the polls, who do you believe will be the new Colombian president?

If the polls don’t lie, and the government of President Iván Duque doesn’t intervene, changing the electoral guarantees, I’m sure the winner will be Gustavo Petro.

How do you see the figure of Rodolfo Fernández, a candidate who came to praise Adolf Hitler?

Engineer Rodolfo Hernández is an accident in these elections. Even though he indicated his opposition to the political class, the truth is that today everyone who does not want Petro to be president will vote for him. Today’s confrontation will be between Petrism, which represents a real change for Colombia, and anti-Petrism, which embodies the status quo of 20 years of Uribismo in Colombia. (RC)

About Abhishek Pratap

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