South America. Colombia elects its president: The stakes

Nearly 38 million Colombians are expected to attend the offices this Sunday, where they will be able to choose between six candidates to replace the outgoing conservative president Ivan Duque.

South America. Colombia elects its president: The stakes

Nearly 38 million Colombians are expected to attend the offices this Sunday, where they will be able to choose between six candidates to replace the outgoing conservative president Ivan Duque. Duque cannot stand for reelection.

After four years of the pandemic and a deep recession, large-scale urban protests, and increased violence by armed groups in rural areas, this election takes place amid intense political tension. The police severely suppressed the spring 2021 national "paro", or strike, which revealed the depth of frustrations of the people in the face poverty and inequality. This demand for social justice was not met by any major reforms during the previous mandate.

7.3 million: The number of Colombians who will require assistance in 2022 to eat enough.

Guerrillas and other armed groups associated with drug trafficking are increasing their grip on rural communities. They have increased their control with an avalanche of murders, displacements and forced recruitment. This has undermined the few achievements of 2016's peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), the campaign showed the right-leaning party in power and the opposition left "fighting an bitter struggle" which reflected "the deep political divide within society".

The left-wing senator Gustavo Petro (a former M-19 guerrilla convert to social democracy, ex mayor of Bogota, and veteran politician) is at the top of the polls (41%). He was able capitalize on the "change" fervor which became the emblem of his campaign. He chose Afro-Colombian Francia Martquez to be his running mate for vice-presidency at 62.

This modest chambermaid, who went on to become a feminist activist and anti-racist activist, was able to make a winning bet. She is already one of the most prominent figures in this presidential election. The duo representing the coalition of "Historical Pact", which won the March legislative elections, promises social justice, peace, green transition and the fight against "predatory economics" and "authoritarianism".

Federico Gutierrez (conservative candidate), a former mayor of Medellin, north-west, is credited with 27% vote. He claims to be a defender for "ordinary" Colombians and promises them "order, security", while denouncing the "hate speech" of a left that has always been assimilated to "communist scarecrow." The nicknamed "Fico", the one trying to capitalize on the "deep fear" that Petro has aroused among some Colombians who fear a "leap in the void" if left wins is Federico Gutierrez, a conservative candidate.

He is being hounded by Rodolfo Hernandez (an outsider candidate) who is a 77 year-old entrepreneur and has a populist rhetoric.

The question of whether the new elected can govern, regardless of what happens in the balloting (which could see another round on June 19), will be raised. Gustavo Petro is being viewed with suspicion by elites and a part of the army. Will he be able govern? Will Gustavo Petro, the victorious "Fico", be able to control a new social discontentment?

Jorge Restrepo from the University of Javeriana, says that "Two emotions dominate the voter: The need for change (...),and distrust". Alejandro Guaviria (a centrist candidate), resigned from the race and said that it might be better to control the explosion with Petro than to place the volcano in a glass. This country needs a change.

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