Colombian presidential vote heads to runoff



Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — The conservative protege of a powerful former president and a leftist former guerrilla who has galvanized voters with an anti-establishment message appeared headed for what promises to be a polarizing runoff election for president in Colombia.

With almost all quick count results in from Sunday’s presidential vote, former senator Ivan Duque was leading with 39 percent of the ballots cast, short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a June runoff. Former rebel and ex-Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro trailed in second place with 25 percent, edging out former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo, who garnered nearly 24 percent and has not yet conceded.

Duque and Petro represent opposite ends of Colombia’s political spectrum and have presented dramatically different visions for the future of the Andean nation as it moves forward with a historic peace process with leftist rebels.

Duque is the handpicked candidate of Alvaro Uribe, the former president and chief critic of the nation’s 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He is promising to amend important aspects of the accord like ensuring the drug trafficking is not an amnestied crime and blocking guerrillas leaders from political office.

Petro supports the accord and has galvanized youth voters angered over deeply entrenched corruption and income inequality. He is vowing to end Colombia’s dependence on oil exports and raise taxes on vast swaths of unproductive land in hopes of boosting agricultural production. Critics have warned the former guerilla and ex-Bogota mayor’s rise could push Colombia dangerously toward the left and rattle markets.

“There’s a high degree of frustration with the political establishment and corruption which is widespread,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “And I think Petro’s standing in the polls could be attributed to that.”