Colombians have failed to elect a president outright, setting the stage for a bitter runoff between two frontrunners from opposite ends of the political spectrum, while a peace process with leftist rebels hangs in the balance. Iván Duque, a hardline conservative who viscerally opposes the peace accord, took the largest share of the vote on Sunday with 39%, though fell short of the 50% required to win at the first round. Instead, he will face Gustavo Petro – a leftwinger and former mayor of Bogotá, who came second with 25% – in the second round on 17 June. Petro, himself once a guerrilla, was Colombia’s first progressive candidate in generations and had been expected to gain a larger share. But a third candidate, the more moderate Sergio Fajardo, appeared to siphon off Petro’s support, receiving 23%. It remains to be seen if Fajardo, a reformer and former mayor of Medellín, will back Petro in the second round.
The two other candidates, Germán Vargas Lleras and Humberto de la Calle, were unable to muster 10% of the vote between them.
While voters were united in their distrust of establishment politicians, the campaign highlighted increasing polarisation, with Duque campaigning on a platform of market-friendly economics and Petro criticising the multinational mining companies that operate in the country.
Some voters were also worried that with a leftist at the helm could mean their country follows neighbouring Venezuela toward economic ruin – a crisis that has caused more than a million Venezuelans to flee to Colombia. Petro was once a vocal supporter of Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan president whom many blame for that country’s woes.