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In Colombia, a Leftist and a Right-Wing Populist Head for June Runoff

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Two anti-establishment candidates, Gustavo Petro, a leftist, and Rodolfo Hernández, a right-wing populist, captured the highest two spots in Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, delivering a shocking blow to Colombia’s dominant conservative political class.

The 2 males will compete in a runoff election on June 19 that’s shaping as much as be probably the most consequential within the nation’s historical past. At stake is the nation’s financial mannequin, its democratic integrity and the livelihoods of thousands and thousands of individuals pushed into poverty in the course of the pandemic.

With greater than 99 % of the ballots counted on Sunday night, Mr. Petro acquired greater than 40 % of the vote, whereas Mr. Hernández acquired simply over 28 %. Mr. Hernández beat by greater than 4 proportion factors the conservative institution candidate, Federico Gutiérrez, who had been polling in second place.

Mr. Hernández’s sudden second-place victory exhibits a nation hungry to elect anybody who will not be represented by the nation’s mainstream conservative leaders.

The Petro-Hernández face-off, mentioned Daniel García-Peña, a Colombian political scientist, pits “change towards change.”

For months, polls have proven Mr. Petro, who’s proposing an overhaul of the nation’s capitalist financial mannequin, main towards a conservative former mayor, Federico Gutiérrez.

It was solely not too long ago that Mr. Hernández, operating on a populist, anti-corruption platform, had begun rising within the polls.

If Mr. Petro in the end wins within the subsequent spherical of voting, it could mark a watershed second for probably the most politically conservative societies in Latin America, and it could set Colombia on an uncharted path.

In his postelection speech at a lodge close to the middle of Bogotá, Mr. Petro stood beside his vice-presidential decide and mentioned Sunday’s outcomes confirmed that the political undertaking of the present president and his allies “has been defeated.”

He then shortly issued warnings about Mr. Hernández, portray a vote for him as a harmful regression, and daring the citizens to take an opportunity on what he referred to as a progressive undertaking, “a real change.”

Mr. Petro’s rise displays not only a leftist shift throughout Latin America, but additionally an anti-incumbent fervor that has gained power because the pandemic has deepened poverty and inequality, intensifying emotions that the area’s economies are constructed largely to serve the elite.

That very same anti-incumbent sentiment appeared to provide Mr. Hernández a late raise into the runoff, and pointed to the waning energy of Uribismo, a hard-line conservatism that has dominated politics in Colombia for the final 20 years, named for its founder, former president Álvaro Uribe.

At polling stations across the nation on Sunday, supporters of Mr. Petro spoke to that frustration, and to a renewed sense of hope.

“It is a historic second for Colombia, we don’t need extra continuity,” mentioned Chiro Castellanos, 37, a Petro supporter in Sincelejo, a metropolis close to the Caribbean coast. “This marks a change, it’s a national undertaking that isn’t nearly Gustavo Petro.”

However in lots of locations there was additionally concern of what that change would possibly appear like, and requires a extra reasonable strategy.

“This nation is in hassle,” mentioned Myriam Matallana, 55, a supporter of Mr. Gutiérrez, in Bogotá, the capital. However with Mr. Petro, “it could be worse.”

Mr. Petro has vowed to remodel Colombia’s financial system, which he says fuels inequality, by increasing social applications, halting oil exploration and shifting the nation’s focus to home agriculture and trade.

Colombia has lengthy been america’ strongest ally within the area, and a win for Mr. Petro may arrange a conflict with Washington. The candidate has referred to as for a reset of the bilateral relationship, together with adjustments to the strategy to the drug conflict and a re-examination of a commerce settlement.

The election comes as surveys present rising mistrust in many of the nation’s establishments, together with congress, political events, the police, the army, the press and the nationwide registrar, a key electoral physique.

It additionally comes amid rising violence that included a stay-at-home order issued by a prison group earlier this month that paralyzed a large a part of the nation for a minimum of 4 days.

Forward of the election, there was widespread concern that these elements would stifle the democratic course of.

“If we keep at residence and say, ‘Everyone seems to be corrupt,’ we’re not going to perform something,” mentioned María Gañan, 27, who voted for Mr. Hernández in Bogotá. “We wish to change the historical past of the nation.”

Mr. Hernández, who was comparatively unknown earlier than till just some weeks in the past, branded himself as an anti-corruption candidate, and has proposed rewarding residents for reporting corruption, appointing Colombians already residing overseas to diplomatic positions, which he says will yield financial savings on journey and different bills, and banning pointless events at embassies.

“As we speak the nation of politicking and corruption misplaced,” Mr. Hernández wrote in a Fb message to his supporters following Sunday’s outcomes.

“As we speak, the gangs who thought that they may govern eternally have misplaced,” he added.

However a few of Mr. Hernández’s proposals have been criticized as undemocratic.

Particularly, he’s proposed declaring a state of emergency for 90 days and suspending all judicial and administrative capabilities with the intention to tackle corruption, leading to fears that he may shut down Congress or droop mayors.

Many citizens are fed up with rising costs, excessive unemployment, low wages, rising training prices and surging violence, and polls present {that a} clear majority of Colombians have an unfavorable view of present conservative administration.

Candidates pushing change have been killed on the marketing campaign path in Colombia earlier than. Mr. Petro and his operating mate, Francia Márquez, have each acquired loss of life threats, prompting elevated safety, together with bodyguards holding riot shields.

But the election was additionally marked by a broadening of the political tent.

In a matter of months, Ms. Márquez, an environmental activist who could be the nation’s first Black vice chairman if she received, has morphed right into a nationwide phenomenon, infusing the election with a gender, race and class-conscious focus like few different candidates within the nation’s historical past.

Her recognition has been seen overwhelmingly as a mirrored image of a deep need by many citizens — Black, Indigenous, poor, rural — to see themselves within the highest halls of energy.

On Sunday, she may have voted within the capital. As a substitute, she selected to journey to the southwestern division of Cauca, the place she grew up.

“As we speak we’re splitting the nation’s historical past in two,” she mentioned on Sunday, shortly after casting her poll. “As we speak, one of many nobodies, the traditionally excluded, is standing as much as occupy a spot in politics.”

Reporting was contributed by Sofía Villamil, Megan Janetsky and Genevieve Glatsky in Bogotá, and by Federico Rios in Suarez, Cauca.

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