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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — In a blow to Colombia’s political class, a leftist former insurgent and a populist businessman took the highest two spots among the many six candidates within the nation’s presidential election Sunday and headed to a runoff showdown in June.

Leftist Sen. Gustavo Petro led the outcomes with simply over 40% of the votes, whereas impartial actual property tycoon Rodolfo Hernández completed second with greater than 28%, election authorities mentioned Sunday night. A candidate wanted 50% of the overall votes to win outright and the run-off election.

Voters within the South American nation went to the polls amid a polarized setting and rising discontent over rising inequality and inflation.

Petro has promised to make vital changes to the economic system, together with tax reform, and to vary how Colombia fights drug cartels and different armed teams. In the meantime, Hernández, whose spot within the runoff contest got here as a suprise, has few connections to political events and guarantees to cut back wasteful authorities spending and to supply rewards for individuals who report corrupt officers.

There was a collection of leftist political victories in Latin America as individuals search change at a time of dissatisfaction with the financial scenario. Chile, Peru and Honduras elected leftist presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is main the polls for this 12 months’s presidential election. Mexico elected a leftist president in 2018.

“The primary downside within the nation is the inequality of circumstances, the work is just not nicely paid,” mentioned Jenny Bello, who bought espresso close to a protracted line of voters below a typical cloudy sky within the capital of Bogotá. She needed to resort to casual gross sales after months with out work due to the pandemic.

This was the second presidential election held for the reason that authorities signed in 2016 a peace settlement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, generally known as FARC for its initials in Spanish. However the divisive settlement was not a foremost difficulty through the marketing campaign, which centered on poverty, inflation and different challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.

Election Day befell peacefully for essentially the most half throughout the nation, which is the third most populous in Latin America. However within the south-central state of Guaviare, three explosions have been set off in rural areas removed from polling stations, leaving a soldier with shrapnel wounds, mentioned Protection Minister Diego Molano, who added that FARC dissident teams have been allegedly accountable. The dissidents function within the space.

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(AP Video/Marko Alvarez)

It’s Petro’s third try to develop into president. He was defeated in 2018 by Duque, who was not eligible for reelection.

A victory for Petro would usher in a brand new political period in a rustic that has all the time been ruled by conservatives or moderates whereas marginalizing the left resulting from its perceived affiliation with the nation’s armed battle. He was as soon as a insurgent with the now-defunct M-19 motion and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

He has promised to make vital changes to the economic system, together with a tax reform, in addition to adjustments to how Colombia fights drug cartels and different armed teams.

Petro’s foremost rival for a lot of the marketing campaign had been Federico Gutiérrez, a former mayor of Medellin backed by most of Colombia’s conventional events who ran on a pro-business, financial progress platform.

However Hernández, the previous mayor of the north-central metropolis of Bucaramanga, surged in current polls with guarantees to “clear” the nation of corruption and to donate his wage.

“Now, we enter the second interval, and these subsequent few days will probably be decisive in figuring out the way forward for the nation,” Hernández mentioned in a livestream after early outcomes confirmed he superior to the runoff. He mentioned he stays agency on his dedication to finish “corruption as a system of presidency.”

Traditionally, Colombia’s early election outcomes are in line with the ultimate depend that authorities give days after the competition.

A Gallup ballot carried out earlier this month confirmed that 75% of Colombians imagine the nation is heading within the improper course and solely 27% approve of Duque. A ballot final 12 months by Gallup discovered 60% of these questioned have been discovering it laborious to get by on their revenue.

The coronavirus pandemic set again the nation’s anti-poverty efforts by at the very least a decade. Official figures confirmed that 39% of Colombia’s 51.6 million residents lived on lower than $89 a month final 12 months, which has a slight enchancment from the 42.5% fee from 2020.

In the meantime, the nation’s inflation reached its highest ranges in 20 years final month. Duque’s administration has justified April’s 9.2% fee for April by saying it’s a part of a worldwide inflationary phenomenon, however the argument has not tamed discontent over rising meals costs.

“The vote serves to vary the nation and I feel that this accountability falls rather a lot on younger individuals who need to attain requirements that enable us to have a good life,” mentioned Juan David González, 28, who voted for the second time in a presidential election.

Along with financial challenges, Colombia’s subsequent president may even should face a posh safety difficulty and corruption, which is a prime concern of voters.

The Purple Cross final 12 months concluded Colombia reached its highest degree of violence within the final 5 years. Though the peace settlement with the FARC has been applied, the territories and drug-trafficking routes that it as soon as managed are in dispute between different armed teams such because the Nationwide Liberation Military, or ELN, a guerrilla based within the Nineteen Sixties, FARC dissidents and the Gulf Clan cartel.

Duque’s successor must resolve whether or not to renew peace talks with the ELN, which he suspended in 2019 after an assault killed greater than 20 individuals.

The opposite candidates on the poll have been Sergio Fajardo, former mayor of Medellín and candidate for the middle coalition; Christian chief John Milton Rodríguez, and the conservative Enrique Gómez.

“Corruption in state entities is the primary downside within the nation,” Édgar González mentioned after voting in Bogotá. “… A really large change is happening within the nation’s politics and if all of us train the best we’re going to obtain that change.”

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Garcia Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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