15th June 2022

Central & South America

Colombia goes to the Polls

Colombia will choose its new president and vice president in elections on Sunday, June 19. On May 29, the first round of the presidential elections took place, no candidate passed the required amount of 50 percent plus one vote needed to win outright. And so, a second round will be held between presidential candidate Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Márquez — who won 40.32 percent of the votes — and the “outsider” pair Rodolfo Hernández and Marelen Castillo — with 28.15 percent. 

The candidates of the “Historic Pact” are Petro, who is a former member of the demobilized urban guerrilla group Movimiento 19 de abril (M19), and a senator and former mayor of Bogotá, and his vice-presidential candidate Márquez, an environmental activist and lawyer of African descent, who is also a former domestic worker. It is the first time in Colombia's history that a popular left-wing coalition may come to power.

“Colombia has never been led by revolutionaries like Mexico or Bolivia, or by popular movements like Peronism in Argentina, or by a socialist like Salvador Allende in Chile,” the BBC stated. “The reformist left-wing politicians who nearly came to power were assassinated.”

From the group “Ligas Gobernantes Anticorrupción (Anti-corruption Governing Leagues),” the presidential candidate is multi-millionaire Hernández. Despite being himself accused of corruption, he has focused his campaign on anti-corruption, and has heavily criticized traditional politicians. Many see him as a mirror image of former U.S. President Donald Trump. His vice-presidential candidate Castillo is also of African heritage, which means that the country will see its first Afro-Colombian vice president sworn in on August 7, regardless of how the second round goes.

There has been some controversy around these elections, because the National Electoral Commission was unable to procure an international auditor. Consequently, the elections were held with conventional national-level software audits. This has led to some concerns among voters about possible electoral fraud by various parties.

The polarization in Colombia’s politics stems from its civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, and is still ongoing despite a historic peace agreement involving one of the major guerrilla groups in 2016. Many people have criticized current president Iván Duque's handling of the peace process between the government and the FARC-EP, which brought the conflict closer to a close, but has not completely ended the violence. 

Surveys have shown that 73 percent of the population disapprove of Duque's leadership. Most people are unhappy with key issues such as corruption, public security, the economy, employment, health, the environment, and education. Duque was recently sentenced to house arrest for failing to comply with a court decision to protect a nature reserve. Many Colombians have protested against Duque's government, which they see as having put state mechanisms at its own service. 

On June 19, a divided Colombia will vote for its future. Whoever wins, it is clear that Colombians want change.