Colombians to cast ballots in June runoff presidential election

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May 30 (UPI) — Voters in Colombia will return to the polls in June after Sunday’s presidential election resulted in a runoff between two anti-establishment candidates at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

The runoff will be held June 19 between Gustavo Petro, a leftist guerrilla-cum senator, and Rodolfo Hernandez, a right-wing populist mayor, The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post reported.

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“Today, Colombians went to the polls and with their participation demonstrated, once again, the solidity of our democracy,” outgoing President Ivan Duque tweeted Sunday night.

With nearly all votes counted late Sunday, Petro had secured about 40% of all ballots cast to Hernandez’s 28% with 54% of eligible voters participating in the election.

To avoid a runoff, a candidate needed to win by a majority.

Petro, who was a member of the M-19, on Twitter late Sunday framed the election as an opportunity for Colombia to choose the future of the traditionally conservative country — either much of the same or “constructive change.”

“The time has come to choose,” he said.

“We want a change that builds peace, that ends the violence, that those days of insecurity, of fear, sometimes of terror, pass,” he said. “We want social justice, that the old man and the old woman have a pension and that all the boys and girls of Colombia have food.”

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If elected in June, Petro will be Colombia’s first leftist president.

Hernandez, who held a four-point leader over center-right candidate Federico Gutierrez, similarly told supporters that Sunday’s results showed Colombia “doesn’t want to keep going for one more day with the same people, the same people who have led us to the painful situation we’re in today,” The Post reported.

Hernandez is the mayor of Bucaramanga and campaigned heavily on the social media smartphone application TikTok.

The election was held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, growing discontent with the current conservative government and rising violence.