Colombia’s presidential elections began on Sunday, which could mean a historic turning point for the South American country. Approximately 39 million voters are invited to cast their ballots by 4:00 pm (local time, 11:00 pm CEST). The leading candidate in the poll is former combatant Gustavo Petro. If he wins, Colombia will have a left-leaning head of state for the first time.
“Former Commander Aureliano” and the mayor of the capital, Bogotá, later announced economic, social and environmental reforms. Petro’s opponents warn of a left-wing authoritarian government like that of neighboring Venezuela.
Runoff may still be necessary
The decision on the head of state in the country of 51 million people is not expected to be taken on Sunday. Opinion polls put 62-year-old Senator Petro, who was from the guerrilla group M-19, clearly ahead of about 40 percent — but he needed an absolute majority of the vote to win in the first round.
Petro’s closest rival, former mayor Federico “Fico” Gutierrez, has 27 percent in opinion polls. Independent businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, who has 20 percent in the polls, also had a chance to enter the run-off on June 19.
The elections were accompanied by a large security presence. About 300,000 police and soldiers have been deployed to protect 12,000 polling stations.
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