On Sunday, over 39 million Colombians are called to vote in the second round of presidential elections that will mean a profound change in the political model that has governed the country for decades. Below are some elements to understand the transformation that citizens expect.
THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Gustavo Petro, the former M19 guerrilla and current senator, is supported by the Historical Pact, a coalition of progressive parties, movements, and organizations. He was the most voted candidate in the first round held on May 29, when he obtained 40.3 percent of the votes.
He is the favorite to win the election according to all voting intention polls. His arrival in the presidency could change the history of Colombia, a South American republic that has lived submerged in violence for decades.
He is confronted by Rodolfo Hernandez, a billionaire construction businessman and former mayor of Bucaramanga, who has been accused of various corrupt acts and scams. During the first round, he obtained 28.1 percent of the votes.
Considered the “Colombian Trump”, this candidate has caused controversy due to his statements against gender equality and his support for far-right positions. Hernandez even publicly stated his admiration for "the great German thinker Adolf Hitler."
THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Whatever happens on Sunday, Colombia will have on August 7, when the new administration takes office, its first African-American vice president.
The most likely to reach that position is Francia Marquez, a woman supported by the leftist Historical Pact. This well-known activist has acquired national notoriety due to her struggle in favor of the population living in the hardest hit areas by the armed conflict. Her long history of human rights militancy has made her a benchmark social leader.
At the other ideological extreme is Marelen Castillo, who is the typical outsider whom nobody knew until she was incorporated by Hernandez into his organization. She says she will contribute to Colombia with her Christian values and her experience as an academic.
Left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro has been fighting Colombia’s far-right paramilitaries for decades. The revelation of a recent plot to murder Petro is unsurprising, but his campaign still appears strong ahead of Sunday’s election. https://t.co/T0xPDuVpAu— Jacobin (@jacobin) May 23, 2022
Some 20,111,908 women and 18,890,331 men are eligible to vote at 12,263 polling places, 5,174 of which are located in cities and 7,089 in rural areas. There are also 1,343 voting tables distributed in 67 countries for the 972,764 Colombians registered abroad to vote. Voting at foreign embassies and consulates began on June 13.
In this second round, whoever obtains the simple majority wins. In the unlikely event that the two presidential binomials get exactly the same number of votes, the decision will be made randomly, drawing a ballot from a ballot box, as established by the Electoral Code.
The Colombian pre-count system is usually very fast, so the first results could be known at the closing of the polling stations at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.
BLANK VOTES AND ABSTENTIONISM
The presidential ballot includes a blank ballot box, which has been increasing in recent elections and could be key on June 19. Many citizens who voted in the first round for the centrist candidate Sergio Fajardo could decide to vote blank.
The same could happen with right-wing voters who do not feel represented by the "Colombian Trump." Electoral analysts do not rule out that even a part of the conservative electorate will vote for the Leftist Petro, who is an educated and "rational" politician.
In the context of the Colombian endemic violence, however, the decisive factor could be abstention. In the 2018 presidential elections, almost 47 percent of citizens did not vote, many of them making that decision for fear of reprisals from far-right paramilitaries and armed groups related to drug production, which operate with impunity in rural areas.
Nevertheless, the desire for change could overcome fear, as happened in the first electoral round, which had the lowest level of abstention in the last 20 years.
As happened in the legislative elections on March 13 and in the first presidential round on June 5, the European Union (EU) will send a mission with a hundred electoral observers.
The Organization of American States (OAS) will also deploy 87 observers, and the NGO Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) will have its monitoring delegation.
Some international trade unions, movements, non-governmental organizations, and charities have also announced they will deploy independent monitors.