Duque and Petro in Runoff in June for the Colombian Presidency

By Giuseppe Palacino and Rodrigo Ruiz Tovar (dpa)

HAVANA TIMES – Far rightwing candidate Ivan Duque and the left leaning Gustavo Petro, who embody two opposing views on the peace process in their country, will contest the Colombian Presidency on June 17 after obtaining the highest percentage of votes in the first round, but not enough to win outright. 

With 99.68 percent of the polling stations votes counted, Duque, from the radical right-wing Centro Democratico, obtained 39.13 percent, while Petro, of the leftist Colombia Humana, had 25.09 percent.

Duque promises to make reforms to the peace agreement signed with the former guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while Petro says he will respect the pact and will deepen measures to facilitate the insertion of former combatants into legal life.

In third place, very close to Petro, was Sergio Fajardo, of an alliance of center-left parties, with 23.74 percent of the votes.

German Vargas Lleras, candidate of the governing party coalition obtained only 7.27 percent, while Humberto de la Calle, of the Liberal Party, which also supports the outgoing Government of Juan Manuel Santos, received 2.06 percent.

The polls opened at 8:00 a.m. and the day passed in an environment of complete tranquility, very different from that of past times, when attacks by guerrilla groups were common.

Now the FARC participates in politics through a legal party, following the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016, while the National Liberation Army (ELN), which is negotiating in Cuba with the Santos government, declared a unilateral truce from Friday and until next Tuesday.

The FARC, now represented in the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Comun, had as their presidential candidate their maximum leader, Rodrigo Londono, who nevertheless resigned in March due to heart problems.

Voting ended at 4:00 p.m. and, as usual in Colombia, the results were tabulated very rapidity.

An hour and a half after the closing of the tables, the National Registry of Civil Status, the entity in charge of organizing the elections and counting the votes, had already published the scrutiny of 99.03 percent of the 97,663 tables installed throughout the country.

A little more than 36.7 million Colombians older than 18 years old were eligible to choose a successor for Santos, whose term ends on August 7.

High abstention, habitual in the elections in Colombia, where the vote is not obligatory, was less this time as over 53 percent of those eligible to vote went to the polls.

Santos, with a favorable image rating in the polls that does not exceed 20 percent, was elected in 2010, when he was the standard-bearer of the ideas of his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010).

However, Santos broke with Uribe as soon as his government began, among other reasons for his decision to initiate a peace process with the FARC, and in 2014 he was re-elected after defeating the candidate of the Democratic Center, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

The head of state could no longer aspire to a third term, because during his second government Congress passed an amendment to re-prohibit presidential re-election. The challenges is already on the table and the Presidency will be occupied by Duke or Petro.