Gustavo Petro Is the Only Democratic Choice in Colombia’s Presidential Election - Mikael Wolfe & Christian Robles-Baez

Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro and vice presidential candidate Francia Márquez offer a press conference in Bogotá, May 31, 2022. (Juan Pablo...

Left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro faces a runoff against a far-right populist, Rodolfo Hernández, for Colombia’s presidency. Predictably, the traditional establishment is lining up to support his self-styled “antiestablishment” opponent.

There was a lot of good news for the Left after the first round of the Colombian presidential elections on May 29. A comparative analysis of the data for the last two elections (2018 and 2022) shows the political strength of left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Márquez.

In our view, the first-round results confirm that Petro still has a good chance of winning the presidency if he is able to capitalize on his strengths and rapidly adjust his strategy to confront an unexpected and unconventional opponent: the insurgent right-wing populist Rodolfo Hernández.

A Shift to the Left

Petro’s rise this year began when his political party, Pacto Histórico (Historic Pact), received the most votes in March’s congressional elections. This was the first time the Left had ever won the highest vote share for Congress. Petro went on to win the first round of the presidential election with around 8.5 million votes, or 40.3 percent. This was a major improvement on 2018, when Petro placed second in the first round with 4.8 million votes, or 25 percent.

This year, Petro won 412 municipalities (districts) out of 1124, having only won 255 in 2018. He also increased his share of the total vote in 1058 municipalities. In other words, Petro had a greater proportion of the votes, compared with 2018, in 94 percent of Colombia’s municipalities. His vote share only went down in 64 municipalities (5 percent of the total), and just nine municipalities flipped from him to Rodolfo Hernández.

Most impressively, Petro flipped 127 municipalities (more than 10 percent) that had voted for the right-wing candidate Iván Duque in 2018’s first round. These districts were mostly concentrated in the western part of the country, the south, and the Caribbean. Petro also took another 39 municipalities where rival candidates had won in 2018, adding up to a total of 166.

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