What You Need to Know About the Colombian Elections

POLITICSBy 2022-06-06T00:43:04-04:00June 6th, 2022|
  • Courtesy of Getty Images.

The first round of Colombia’s presidential election, which took place on May 29th, yielded a surprising result. As polls predicted, leftist Gustavo Petro earned the majority of votes, with 40.4%. Unexpectedly, his opponent in the final round of the election will be businessman Rodolfo Hernández, deemed “Colombia’s Trump,” by media outlets, instead of the predicted victor, conservative candidate Feredico Gutiérrez. Given that neither of the candidates received over 50% of the vote during the first round, Petro and Hernández will face off during a runoff election on June 19th.

If he wins, majority winner Petro, 62, would become Colombia’s first leftist leader. In his campaign, he has vowed to transform the country both socially and economically. As a teenager, Petro participated in the M-19 guerilla movement, a leftist urban militia that sought political power in the name of social justice during the 1970s. Since then, he served as mayor of Bogota from 2011 to 2015 and then senator. According to The New York Times, some critics fear Petro’s potential ascent to office, concerned that his policies, such as halting fuel exploration, could ruin the Colombian economy.

His unlikely contender is Rodolfo Hernández, 77. The wealthy businessman was mayor of Bucaramanga from 2016-2019 and has recently gained TikTok fame through videos of himself riding an electric scooter or spending time with his family on election day — some even call him the “king of TikTok.” Hernández in 2016 said he was a follower of Adolf Hitler, but later called this a lapse and explained that he meant Albert Einstein. He has vowed to dismantle corruption even if it means declaring a state of emergency, which could lead to the shutdown of Congress and the suspension of mayors. 

On Sunday evening, following the election results, he tweeted, “The country of politiquería and corruption lost today, those who thought they would eternally be our government lost today, citizenship won today, Colombia won today.”

Although Hernández has spoken out strongly against corruption, the Colombian attorney general’s office is currently investigating him: allegedly, during his time as mayor of Bucaramanga, Hernández intervened in a trash collection tender so that a company his son lobbied for would benefit financially, reported Reuters.

Before this first round, the assumption for the Colombian election was that citizens would choose Federico Gutiérrez over Hernández as their conservative candidate. Gutiérrez, 47, served as mayor of Medellín, the nation’s second largest city, from 2016 to 2019. In his presidential campaign, he promised to address corruption, poverty, and security. Following the first round of the election, Gutiérrez backed Hernández, saying that he will “safeguard democracy.”