Gustavo Petro knocks on the doors of the presidency of Colombia. The leader of the left has forcefully prevailed in the primaries of the coalitions and has placed the Historical Pact as the first force in the Senate. The consultation of the left, with more than five million votes, achieved almost the same support as the center and the right combined. Frederick phyco Gutiérrez will try to stop Petro from the right. A battle already known in a deeply polarized country and in which he has never governed the left. Gutiérrez won comfortably and comes out stronger from this Sunday’s election against a blurred center, with very little support, which gave Sergio Fajardo the victory. The electoral appointment this Sunday is considered a thermometer for the first round of the presidential elections, which will be held on May 29.
Colombians went to vote in the legislative elections with the primaries in mind. In such a presidential country, the names of the candidates stole all the prominence from Congress, although their role as an ally or counterweight to the Executive is key to the country’s governability.
The left is gaining momentum on all fronts for the presidential race, which officially starts this Monday after having defined the candidates. Four years ago, when Petro lost in the second round against Iván Duque, a Uribe candidate, his party barely won three seats in the Senate, compared to 17 now, according to projections. Those 2018 elections became a all against Petro, a scenario that the leader of the left wants to avoid at all costs with a victory in the first round, for which he would need to exceed 50% of the votes.
The three winning candidates of the primaries join those who attend alone. This is Rodolfo Hernández, the surprise of this pre-campaign and who rose to third place in the polls; Ingrid Betancourt, the politician who spent six years in the jungle kidnapped by the FARC, and Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the candidate of a Uribismo in low hours. Until now, the polls have offered a picture that is still very distorted by the number of pre-candidacies —up to 15— that the coalitions gathered.
The right also emerges stronger from election night with a coalition marked by the absence of the Democratic Center, the party of former President Álvaro Uribe, which has been pulling the strings of power in Colombia for two decades. The low popularity of Iván Duque ended up sinking Uribismo to the point that some of his figures have publicly given their support to Gutiérrez against his own candidate. Zuluaga is not expected to travel further. And Fico, whom many have pointed out as Uribe’s supporter in the shadows, has the sympathy of the former president. With this support, the already candidate of the Team for Colombia will try to go to the second round to mobilize around him the entire antipetrism generated by the leader of the left.
The drawing of the new Senate consolidates, in addition to the Historical Pact, the two traditional parties: Conservative and Liberal. The hegemony of the Democratic Center of Uribe, the first force in the last legislature with 19 seats, comes to an end In recent weeks, Petro himself had harangued his followers to vote massively for the Pact in Congress in order to make the reforms ” What does the country need? The type of messages that puts his competitors on alert.
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The center was the great victim of the electoral night. The coalition never lived up to the expectations of its name -Hope Center Coalition- and its passage through the campaign became a bumpy road in which they ended up crashing this Sunday. The coalition was the one that added the least votes of the three. Fajardo prevailed over other coalition options such as the leader of the New Liberalism, Juan Manuel Galán, and the academic Alejandro Gaviria, who despite the enthusiasm of the Bogota elite never managed to take off and is unknown to the great Colombia.
The results leave the middle center off the stage of the presidential battle, in which a strengthened left will try to defeat a right that, according to the results, was not as dead as it seemed. A survey from September of last year claimed that 71% of Colombian voters consider themselves to be from the center, but the Centro Esperanza Coalition has so far failed to attract those voters, who are tired of Uribeism and fearful of a populist leader like Petro. The constant divisions and internal fights of the coalition prevented them from reaching society with clear proposals, always locked in an issue that looked more to their navel than to the outside. Now that the fight for leadership is over, Fajardo has to close ranks around him to try to take off and improve his numbers. Gaviria, until now his biggest internal enemy, assured on Sunday that he had his full support.
On Monday another scenario begins to open. That of the support and alliances achieved by the already defined candidates. The Liberal Party, of former president César Gaviria, has no candidate of its own and its support is raffled off due to the enormous number of votes it moves, even for Petro himself, who has already made some rapprochement. Fajardo, however, has always refused to make a pact with any of the great traditional formations.
The real campaign now begins with our gaze on May 29 and the question of what is stronger: the petrism or the antipetrism. The elections have a clear protagonist.
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