Colombian leftist candidate leads field to become president

Colombians voted in presidential primaries to choose party candidates for May election.

Colombian leftist candidate leads field to become president

Leftist candidate Gustavo Petro won Colombia’s presidential primary Sunday and emerged as the potential front-runner in the election which will be held in May.

Right-wing candidate Federico Gutierrez and centrist Sergio Fajardo also won nominations from their coalitions.

In the referendum vote for the Historic Pact coalition, Petro, a former member of the leftist M-19 rebel group and an ex-Bogota mayor, won 80.5%, or about 4.4 million votes, with 99% of the precincts counted.

Gutierrez, the candidate for the Team for Colombia coalition and a former mayor of Medellin, won more than 54%, or about 2.1 million votes, while Fajardo, the center-left candidate for the Hope Center Coalition and also a former mayor of Medellin, won just under 33%, or close to 720,000 votes.

The three will compete in Colombia's presidential election on May 29 along with other candidates who are running outside coalitions. If no one receives more than 50% of the votes, the two candidates with the most votes will face each other in a runoff in June.

The primary took place alongside the legislative vote, the results of which will most likely change the country's political map. The leftist Historic Pact became one of the most voted for forces in the Senate, while the government party, the Democratic Center, will go from being the predominant force to a discreet fifth place with only 14 seats in the Senate.

In 2018, Petro lost the presidential race to right-wing Ivan Duque, who has become widely unpopular, according to the polls.

After violent social protests raged throughout the country in 2021 and the coronavirus pandemic increased poverty and inequality, the Colombian left has been trying to translate the discontent of social protests into electoral results.

If a left-wing government comes to power, Colombia would follow a trend happening in Latin America to take a left turn.

Last April, socialist Pedro Castillo overtook right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori in Peru's presidential election, and in December, Chile elected socialist Gabriel Boric, who defeated conservative former congressman Jose Antonio Kast.