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Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla, has won Colombia election.

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According to Colombia election results released by election authorities, senator Petro received 50.48 percent of the vote, while real estate magnate Rodolfo Hernández received 47.26 percent, with almost all ballots counted.

Petro’s victory signalled a sea change in presidential politics in a country that has long shunned the left because of its alleged ties to the armed conflict. Petro himself was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

“For the people, this is a day of joy. Allow them to rejoice in their first popular triumph “Petro sent out a tweet. “May the pleasure that now fills the heart of the Homeland cushion so many afflictions.”

During his victory address, Petro called for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his sharpest detractors, stating that all members of the opposition are invited to visit the presidential palace “to solve Colombia’s issues.”

“From the beginning of our government, there will never be political or legal persecution, just respect and discussion,” he stated, adding that he will listen to “that quiet majority of peasants, Indigenous peoples, women, and young,” as well as those who have raised arms.

Shortly after the results were released, outgoing conservative President Iván Duque congratulated Petro, while Hernández immediately acknowledged defeat.

In a video posted on social media, Hernández stated, “I accept the outcome, as it should be if we want our institutions to remain robust.” “I genuinely hope that everyone benefits from this decision.”

Colombia also elected its first African-American woman to the position of vice president. Francia Márquez, Petro’s running partner, is an environmentalist and lawyer whose resistance to illicit mining has resulted in threats and a grenade attack in 2019.

The Colombia election took place amid widespread discontent over rising inequality, inflation, and violence — factors that prompted voters in Latin America’s third-most populous country to reject long-ruling centrist and right-leaning politicians in favour of two outsiders in the first round of voting last month.
Petro’s election was the latest socialist political triumph in Latin America, fuelled by the yearning for change among voters. In 2021, leftist presidents were elected in Chile, Peru, and Honduras, while former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is dominating polls in Brazil’s presidential race.

“What I think it illustrates is that the approach of fear, hatred, and stigmatisation of the left as a policy to gain people no longer works,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, the firm’s senior analyst for Colombia.

However, for several voters, the results were an obvious cause for concern, as their closest analogy to a socialist administration was the problematic neighbouring Venezuela.

“We hope that Mr. Gustavo Petro follows through on what was said in his government plan, that he leads our nation to greatness, which we desperately need, and that (he) removes corruption,” Karin Ardila Garca, a Hernández supporter in Bucaramanga, said. “That he does not take us to communism, socialism, or a war in Colombia where they continue to murder our people… (H)e does not lead us to another Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, or Chile.”

On Sunday, around 21.6 million of the 39 million eligible voters cast ballots. Since 1990, Abstentionism has topped 40% in every presidential Colombia election.

Petro, 62, will be proclaimed the winner following a formal count, which will take a few days. In the past, preliminary results have always aligned with final outcomes.

On Sunday, several heads of state congratulated Petro. Former President lvaro Uribe, a strong critic, agreed, and he remains a key player in Colombian politics.

Since topping four other candidates in the first May 29 Colombia election, polls had showed Petro and Hernández — both former mayors — were in a close battle heading into the runoff. Neither candidate received enough votes to win outright, forcing a runoff.

In the first round, Petro received 40% of the vote and Hernández received 28%, but the gap swiftly decreased as Hernández began to recruit so-called anti-Petrista supporters.

Petro has suggested sweeping pension, tax, health, and agricultural reforms, as well as revisions to Colombia’s counter-narcotics and armed-group policies. However, he will have a difficult time delivering on his pledges since he lacks a majority in Congress, which is required to implement reforms.

“Those who support him have great expectations, and they’ll be disillusioned very fast if he can’t move things rapidly,” said Adam Isacson, a Colombia expert at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank.

“I believe you’ll find a position where he either needs to make some compromises and give up a lot of his plans in order to get certain things accomplished, or the country as a whole.”

Petro has shown interest in resuming diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which were suspended in 2019. He also wants to improve Colombia’s relationship with the United States by renegotiating a free trade pact and finding new ways to combat drug trafficking.

The Biden administration, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is looking forward to working with Petro.

Hernández, who gained his fortune in real estate, is not a member of any major political party and has shied away from forming coalitions. His frugal campaign, which he ran mostly on TikTok and other social media platforms, was self-funded and centred on fighting corruption, which he blames for poverty and the loss of public resources that could have been spent on social initiatives.

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