Colombian elections: leftist Gustavo Petro wins the first round of the presidential election

Gustavo Petro, former mayor of Bogota, won the first round of the Colombian presidential elections. The 62-year-old won 40.3% of the vote and now has a shot at becoming Colombia’s first-ever leftist president.

Behind Petro in second place is surprise contender and businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, with 28% of the vote.

The second round of voting, which will take place on June 19, will decide the winner.

Hernandez, a 77-year-old millionaire and himself a former mayor, ran on an anti-corruption platform and edged out right-winger Federico Gutierrez, a former mayor of the second city of Medellin.

Petro, who is a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, promised “real change” if elected and vowed to pursue “social justice and economic stability”.

“A business cannot grow if society is impoverished. Profits cannot grow sustainably if the majority of the population (suffers) from hunger,” he said.

Hernandez’s late push has complicated Petro’s road to the presidency, political analysts say.

“We don’t want to lose the country and we won’t jeopardize the future of Colombia, of our families, of our children,” Gutierrez said.

See also | “Polarized election”: Voters in Bogota weigh presidential options

More than 8.5 million Colombians demanding “change” voted for Petro, while Hernandez, who is not aligned with any political party, garnered 5.9 million votes.

In the 2018 presidential election, Ivan Duque defeated Petro but is now leaving office with a record number of disapprovals after a single, constitutionally limited four-year term.

According to the World Bank, around 40% of Colombia’s 50 million people live in poverty and the country has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world.

(With agency contributions)

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