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Colombians go to the polls for a controversial presidential election


Colombians vote on Sunday to choose a new president from a former rebel promising generous social programs, a center-right candidate warning of a leftist economic model and an eccentric business mogul.

Gustavo Petro, a former left-leaning mayor of Bogota and member of the M-19 guerrilla group and current senator, is consistently leading opinion polls with around 40% support, ten points below what he would need to ensure the presidency without a second round in June. .

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

The 62-year-old has drawn support for pledges to redistribute pensions, provide free public university and tackle deep inequality.

His main opponent is Federico Gutierrez, the center-right former mayor of Medellin, who has around 25% support.

Watch | Presidential election in Colombia: Petro wins 40% of opinion votes

Gutierrez has emphasized his own plans for a basic income for 5 million households, economic growth of 5% per year and more efficient public spending in response to accusations that he is the ideological successor to unpopular President Ivan Duke.

Gutierrez, 47, said Petro was a threat to democracy and warned that left-wing economic plans, including banning new oil and gas projects, would ruin Colombia’s economy.

Read also | From conflict to cartels: everything you need to know about Colombia

Construction magnate and former mayor of Bucaramanga Rodolfo Hernandez comes third in the six-man race, with around 20% support.

Hernandez, who races independently, is known for his whimsical social media videos, including of him riding an electric scooter, and his anti-corruption pledges. The 77-year-old himself faces an ongoing investigation into whether he intervened in a tender for the benefit of a company his son lobbied for. He denied wrongdoing.

The country’s registrar said there was no possibility of voter fraud, after candidates repeatedly raised concerns about irregularities in March’s legislative elections, which election officials described as errors of procedure.

Polling stations will open at 8 a.m. local time and close at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT). Officials said they expected results about four hours later.

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