Colombians select between two anti-establishment presidential candidates


Colombians started voting for a brand new president on Sunday in what promised to be a good contest between two candidates with distinctly completely different anti-establishment visions.

Gustavo Petro is a former Marxist guerrilla and ex-mayor of Bogotá who if elected could be the primary actually leftist chief in Colombia’s fashionable historical past. He guarantees a radical overhaul of the economic system and nothing in need of a social revolution, with far better spending on schooling and healthcare.

His proposals, which embrace a ban on oil exploration, open-pit mining and fracking, have unnerved traders who say they might stymie what has been one of many fastest-growing economies in Latin America.

His sole opponent is Rodolfo Hernández, a 77-year-old businessman who has been the wild card of the election. Standing as an unbiased and financing his personal marketing campaign, his populist anti-corruption message has struck a chord with Colombians fed up with their political elite.

Whoever wins will in all probability take Latin America’s third most populous nation down a really completely different path from the one it has adopted in current many years.

Supporters of Rodolfo Hernández in Bucaramanga, Colombia, on Saturday © Gabriel Aponte/Getty Images

For the previous 4 years Colombia has been dominated by a conservative authorities that’s now deeply unpopular. Incumbent president Iván Duque is ineligible for re-election and his occasion, which has dominated nationwide politics, is on the wane.

“The outcome of this polarising and competitive election will be critical to shape the country’s future for the years to come,” mentioned Alberto Ramos, head of Latin American analysis at Goldman Sachs.

Recent polls prompt the 2 candidates had been technically tied, with Hernández forward by not more than 1 or 2 share factors.

Petro simply received the primary spherical final month with 40 per cent to Hernández’s 28 per cent. But fears of a radical leftwing Petro authorities are excessive. Conservative voters whose candidates did not make the run-off are anticipated to swing behind Hernández — not essentially out of conviction however merely to maintain the not noted.

“I’m nervous,” mentioned Mónica Miranda, 28, after voting for Petro shortly after polls opened in Bogotá. “I’ve never had any doubt who I’d vote for — there’s no way I could vote for a man like Rodolfo Hernández — but it’s going to be really, really close.”

Supporters of Gustavo Petro wear masks depicting him
Supporters of Gustavo Petro put on masks depicting him as they wait for his or her candidate at a polling station in Bogotá on Sunday © Daniel Munoz/AFP/Getty Images

Colombian property and the peso rallied after the primary spherical as Petro’s probabilities of profitable appeared to recede, however have since retreated because the hole between the 2 candidates has closed.

“When polls and local experts say the race is too close to call, it makes more sense to leave political analysis to the market,” mentioned Luis Ramos, senior Colombia analyst at Andean asset administration agency LarrainVial.

“Our latest review of Colombia’s 10-year credit default swaps, corporate bonds and local equities suggests that the market sees the scales tipping in favour of a Petro victory.”

Many observers say that if Petro loses — and significantly if the result’s shut — he would contest the vote. He and his crew have often questioned the neutrality and efficacy of Colombia’s electoral authorities. Some of his supporters have mentioned they’d take to the streets in the event that they see proof of fraud. Thousands of troopers and law enforcement officials have been deployed to polling stations to take care of calm.

Muni Jensen, a former Colombian diplomat and senior adviser at enterprise technique agency Albright Stonebridge Group, mentioned Petro, who’s making his third and presumably remaining bid for the presidency, had been “planting the seed of fraud in anticipation of a close call in favour of Rodolfo”.

“I think if there is a small margin between Rodolfo and Petro, in favour of Rodolfo, it’s going to get really complicated and there’s a lot of nervousness in Colombia about what could happen,” she mentioned.

Hernández has mentioned he’ll settle for the consequence though some analysts imagine he too may cry fraud if he loses narrowly.

To complicate issues, he faces a corruption case that is because of go to trial in late July, simply days earlier than the brand new president takes workplace.

Any determination to contest the vote would mark a major break with custom in Colombia. Despite its lengthy and bloody civil battle and drug-related violence, the nation has loved outstanding electoral stability for many years, avoiding the dictatorships, impeachments and revolving-door governments that blight Latin America.

Since 1958, it has held 16 presidential elections, one each 4 years, as common as clockwork, electing 14 completely different presidents, all of whom have handed over energy peacefully on the finish of their mandates. No different main nation within the area can boast such a report.

This 12 months’s election has performed out in opposition to a backdrop of elevated insecurity throughout the nation of 50mn individuals.

Both candidates say they’ve acquired credible dying threats. The state ombudsman has recognized about 300 municipalities — greater than 1 / 4 of the nation — the place it says there may be both a “high” or “extreme” danger of election day violence.