Ex-guerrilla gets 40 percent: left-wing candidate wins first round of elections in Colombia

Historic turning point in the presidential election in Colombia: the left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro is clearly ahead in the first round of voting and is going into the runoff against the populist Hernández.

Ex-guerrilla gets 40 percent: left-wing candidate wins first round of elections in Colombia

Historic turning point in the presidential election in Colombia: the left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro is clearly ahead in the first round of voting and is going into the runoff against the populist Hernández. So far, power in the South American country has always been concentrated in the hands of more or less conservative elites.

Former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro clearly won the first round of Colombia's presidential election. The former mayor of the capital Bogotá received 40.3 percent of the votes, as the electoral authority announced on Sunday (local time) after the preliminary count of almost all polling stations. The non-party entrepreneur Rodolfo Hernández came to 28.1 percent. The two strongest candidates will meet in the runoff on June 19.

If Petro also prevails in the second round, it would be the first time in the recent history of the South American country that a leftist would move into the Casa de Nariño government palace in Bogotá. Colombia is traditionally conservative. Although social inequality is enormous, left-wing politics has always been discredited by the violence of guerrilla groups in decades of civil war.

The millionaire building contractor Hernández was mayor of the city of Bucaramanga, but has few political connections in Bogotá. In the event of an election victory, the populist promises a lean government and a determined fight against corruption. The current conservative head of state, Iván Duque, was not allowed to stand again because the constitution does not provide for re-election.

For decades, Colombia suffered from a bloody civil war between left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and state security forces. 220,000 people died and millions were displaced. In 2016, the government signed a peace treaty with the left-wing FARC guerrillas, and hopes for an upswing were high. But violence is back, especially in rural areas. 300,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed on Sunday to protect voters, poll workers and candidates.

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