Colombian voters have taken a turn for the left following Sunday's historic support for Senator Gustavo Petro, who has been singled out in recent polls as the favorite to win the May 29 presidential elections.
The Historical Pact, a political front that groups leftist and alternative parties, has garnered a total of 5,391,755 votes in the primaries, with little less than 4% of the polling stations yet to be checked.
The rightwing force Colombia Team came in second with 3,846,957 votes, while the Hope Center received 2,104,283 votes.
When only leftwing votes are measured, Petro took 4,340,473 of them, against Francia Márquez's 757,537. It was nevertheless a remarkable performance for the Afro-descendant candidate and victim of the internal armed conflict.
The left also made progress in the Colombian Congress. According to the National Registrar's Office, the Historic Pact obtained 25 of the 165 seats on the Lower House, behind the Liberals (32), and tied with the Conservatives. The coalition led by Petro is also projected as the first force in the Senate together with the Conservatives, with 16 seats each, and ahead of the Liberals (15).
The 61-year-old Petro was the main winner Sunday when, in addition to party primaries, parliamentarian elections were held to renew both houses in the nearly 300-seat Congress.
Petro was the most voted presidential hopeful. The Historic Pact has achieved the best result of progressivism in the history of the Republic of Colombia, he said late Sunday.
Leading all polls for the presidential elections, Petro will face Federico Gutiérrez (47), winner in the primaries of the right-wing coalition, and mathematician Sergio Fajardo (65), who will represent the center forces. Other presidential candidates will be Óscar Iván Zuluaga, for the ruling Democratic Center; the independent Rodolfo Hernández, and Íngrid Betancourt, former candidate and former hostage of the extinct FARC guerrilla. All three refrained from going to primaries and competing with the endorsement of their parties or signatures.
We are on the verge of winning the presidency of Colombia in the first round, Petro told his supporters, so as to avoid a runoff scheduled for June 19.
Petro's victory is also a punishment for the Democratic Center, the party founded by former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and which brought to power the conservative Iván Duque, who ends his four-year term in August sunk in growing unpopularity. Uribe has resigned from the Senate for being under judicial investigation for alleged witness tampering.
Petro, who in 2018 lost the runoff with Duque, looks like the electoral phenomenon of this campaign, in a country impoverished by the pandemic, with unemployment of almost 15% and plagued by the spike in violence that followed the peace agreement with the FARC and increasing urban insecurity.
The former mayor of Bogota, who laid down his arms in 1990 to embark on a glittering career in Congress, is set to capitalize on the social discontent seen in massive protests against the government in recent years.
Petro promises to distance himself from the traditional elites and lead a government of rupture and reforms with an environmental approach. He also called on the different political forces to join his campaign, except for the genocidal ones, he warned.
In the Team for Colombia primaries, Gutiérrez, former mayor of Medellín, obtained 54.15% of the votes, followed by former mayor of Barranquilla, Alex Char, with 17.68%. We receive with great joy, but above all with great humility and responsibility this triumph we have obtained today as a team, knowing that the road ahead of us is long, said Gutiérrez said. The right-wing candidate took advantage of his speech warning those involved in acts of corruption and who frighten citizens that he will persecute and fight them in case he becomes President.