Dleftist Gustavo Petro will rule Colombia for the next four years. In the second round of elections on Sunday, the former mayor of Bogota and former member of the M-19 urban guerrilla movement won more clearly than expected with conservative entrepreneur Rodolfo Hernández. Petro won around 50.5% of the vote, Hernández 47.3%. In the last polls before the elections, both were practically equal. Francia Márquez will be the first African-Colombian woman to serve as vice president alongside Petro.
Petro, who had previously lost the presidential election twice, campaigned for radical social and economic change. The 62-year-old economist wants to fight inequalities in the country, including free university education, pension and tax reform. Some of his proposals cause great uncertainty in the economy and among investors. For example, Petro wants to end coal mining and ban new oil projects while respecting existing contracts. Economists consider the project radical. More than half of Colombian exports are based on fossil fuels. Only if Colombia produces more can it redistribute it and create more justice, Petro said in his election night speech. But it should be done without damaging the environment. Colombia wants to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change.
More moderate as president than during the election campaign?
Analysts expect Petro to moderate his presidential campaign versus the semi-populist campaign. Reforms that are too radical will still be opposed by parliament. There, Petra’s alliance, the “Historical Pact”, won seats in the March Congressional elections, but more than a dozen parties are represented in both houses, most of which are considered moderate. This should make it difficult for Petro to form coalitions in projects that do not have a broad consensus. In his first speech on election night, Petro focused on reconciliation and peace. The election showed two Colombia, but he wanted the country with all its differences to become one Colombia. “Change is just about leaving the hate behind us.” Peace means that Hernández and anyone who opposes his government are always welcome at the presidential palace to discuss the country’s problems.
Settlements with the political establishment
The entire election was a clear rejection of Colombia’s traditional conservative and liberal parties that have ruled the country for decades, and a right-wing camp centered around former president Álvaro Uribe and incumbent president Iván Duque, who took office in August with a single-digit approval rating. The discourse against the political establishment was effective from the very first vote. Petro’s rival candidate, Hernández, was also considered a political outsider compared to the political elite. Hernández focused his campaign almost exclusively on social media, ignoring any debate. As expected, he also admitted defeat in a video posted on social media. “As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of these elections,” said Hernández. He hopes Petro will keep his anti-corruption promise.
Hernández had little to add after the first vote and the rather surprising entry into the second round. Even after the court ordered a debate, Hernández dodged. To make matters worse, most frowning at the “establishment” backed it after the first vote. On the other hand, Petro managed to reach more non-voters, especially young Colombians. About 22.6 million people voted on Sunday, about 1.2 million more than in the first vote. 58 percent is a relatively high turnout.