Colombians vote for president amid struggling economy

Pre-election polls show former rebel Gustavo Petro leading as Colombians vote for their next leader in a country facing growing poverty and insecurity.

A recent poll showed that 75% of Colombians think the country is going in the wrong direction and only 27% approve of incumbent President Ivan Duque. (AP)

Colombians will vote for their next president, choosing from six candidates who all promise varying degrees of change amid growing inequality, inflation, violence and dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The poll includes former rebel Gustavo Petro, who could become Colombia’s first leftist president on Sunday if he can secure 50% of the votes needed to win in the first round.

If no one obtains more than half of the votes, a second round between the two best candidates will take place. Pre-vote polls show Petro leading but not getting 50%.

Behind him are a populist property mogul promising monetary rewards for advice on corrupt officials and a right-wing candidate who has tried to distance himself from the current conservative president, Ivan Duque.

Moreover, this is the second presidential election since the government signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC.

However, the divisive deal was not a central campaign issue, as issues such as poverty and corruption drew attention.

READ MORE: Colombian left wins decisive victory in presidential primary

Campaign promises

This will be Petro’s third attempt to be the president of the South American country. He was beaten in 2018 by Duque, who is not eligible for re-election.

His victory would usher in a new political era in a country that has historically been ruled by conservatives or moderates while marginalizing the left due to its perceived association with the country’s armed conflict.

He promised to make major adjustments to the economy, including tax reform, as well as changes in the way Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups.

Petro’s main rival for most of the campaign has been Federico Gutierrez, a former mayor of Medellin who is backed by most of Colombia’s mainstream parties and ran on a platform of business-friendly economic growth.

Gutierrez promised to fight hunger with the extension of subsidies and public-private alliances so that 10 tonnes of food wasted each year goes to the poorest.

Official figures showed that 39% of Colombia’s 51.6 million people lived on less than $89 a month last year, a slight improvement from 2020’s rate of 42.5%.

Meanwhile, the country’s inflation hit its highest level in two decades last month.

The other candidates in the running are real estate magnate Rodolfo Hernandez; Sergio Fajardo, former mayor of Medellin and center coalition candidate; Christian leader John Milton Rodriguez; and curator Enrique Gomez.

READ MORE: Turkey and Colombia elevate bilateral ties to strategic partnership

Source: AP

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