Will Colombia Vote for its First Ever Left-Wing President?

In Colombia’s upcoming presidential election, progressive candidate Gustavo Petro leads the polls, suggesting he could change into the nation’s first ever left-wing president. But with voters polarized and the nation shaken by drug-fuelled violence and battling a COVID-19-induced financial droop, whoever emerges as the brand new president is ready to imagine a frightening to-do listing.

Petro, the previous mayor of Bogotá who got here second within the final presidential election in 2018, is operating on a platform of addressing inequality, in addition to curbing Colombia’s oil commerce. As the candidate for the Historic Pact occasion, Petro is interesting to a broader vary of potential voters. Francia Márquez, his operating mate, is an Afro-Colombian human rights and environmental activist who, if elected, would additionally make historical past because the nation’s first black vice chairman.

Can Petro Move a Naturally Right-Wing Country Leftwards?

The vote will probably be a litmus take a look at of whether or not Colombia, lengthy a right-wing stronghold, is able to swing in direction of the left. Given the nation’s 5 a long time of violence between Marxist-inspired guerrillas and paramilitary and state forces, many citizens stay suspicious of the left. However, endurance with right-wing rule is carrying skinny. Anger spiked in 2021, when folks took to the streets of main cities to protest the right-wing authorities’s plan to lift taxes regardless of a steep coronavirus-era financial downturn. These generally violent demonstrations have been typically brutally repressed by police: A UN report mentioned not less than 44 civilians and two members of the police died.

Growing discontent with President Iván Duque Márquez, a conservative like others earlier than him, has greater than halved his approval rankings. In any case, Colombian presidents can’t run for a second time period. Polls launched in late April confirmed that Petro’s help at 43.6%, whereas the center-right candidate Federico “Fico” Gutierrez, a former mayor of Medellín, the nation’s second-largest metropolis, commanded 26.7% help.

However, Petro might want to take greater than 50% of votes within the May 29 poll to win outright. If no single candidate garners greater than half of the votes, the 2 frontrunners will participate in one other spherical in June.

Rural Killings Are on the Rise

Colombia is going through deep political fissures. Violence is climbing in rural areas, elevating doubts concerning the possibilities for the historic peace settlement to carry. This settlement was signed by the Colombian authorities and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greater than 5 years in the past.

In the context of the nation’s lengthy and bloody civil conflict, the 2022 Colombia Country Report of Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) has described the brand new wave of killings of activists, human rights campaigners, and former FARC fighters as “a new phase in the country’s trajectory of violent conflict.” The BTI’s governance index, which assesses the standard of political management steering transformation processes, confirmed how Colombia’s efficiency rating ticked decrease between 2020 and 2022. It has, fallen from 6.42 to five.88 out of a attainable 10 factors. For the final 10 years, it varieties an inverted U-curve, rising underneath earlier president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón from 5.98 to six.93 factors within the BTI 2018, solely to fall to the bottom rating in a decade underneath Duque.

The 2016 peace course of was lauded internationally, incomes Santos a Nobel prize. The peace course of has been regularly weakened by Duque’s authorities. The new president will doubtless make or break the success of the peace deal. The course of could possibly be protected if the brand new chief commits to holding up the Colombian authorities’s facet of the deal by providing support to affected municipalities and safety for neighborhood leaders in areas the place violence is rising. Alternatively, the brand new president could prolong Duque’s established sample of deliberately thwarting the method. Of these within the operating, Petro, who in his youth was a member of the now defunct M-19 insurgent group and is a long-term advocate for social equality, is the one candidate pledging to work to revive the floundering peace deal.

Meanwhile, the incoming chief should cope with the fallout of neighboring Venezuela’s humanitarian catastrophe. Food shortage and violence have made about two million Venezuelans to hunt refuge in Colombia.

Does this Volatile Oil-Based Economy Mark a New Trend?

The coronavirus pandemic despatched the Colombian financial system diving into its sharpest recession in additional than a century. Now, the GDP is projected to develop once more by 5.5% in 2022 and three.1% in 2023. However, the seek for “a decent and better life” stays a precedence for a lot of voters, defined Mariano Aguirre, an affiliate fellow of Chatham House and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Bogotá. Around 19.6 million folks out of a inhabitants of fifty million have been in poverty by the tip of 2021. Of these, tens of millions have been dwelling in excessive poverty.

“Many but not all of these votes will go for Gustavo Petro,” Aguirre mentioned in an interview. “But many will vote against him for fear of a too leftist government. These votes will be both from sectors of the middle class and the powerful elite that sees its privileges threatened. On the other hand, there will be voters from regions outside of Bogotá seeking to move away from the traditional ‘vote buying machine’ and deeply rooted local corruption. They are seeking new democratic ways of doing politics — many will turn to Petro in the hope he will change the status quo.”

The rival candidates for the 2022 election take starkly totally different stances on how they’d steer Latin America’s fourth greatest financial system. Colombia’s financial system is tied to commodities. In specific, oil makes up round half of the overall exports. This state of affairs leaves Colombia uncovered to cost shocks which, mixed with the deep cleft between the wealthy and the poor, signifies that the potential for social unrest stays excessive. Petro has a observe document of difficult Duque’s emphasis on power exploration alongside Colombia’s coasts. Instead, he seeks to show the nation into an power transition frontrunner by halting oil exploration and changing fossil gasoline revenue with revenue from renewables and different sectors.

Analysts in the meantime view the Colombian poll in a broader context. Some see it as a take a look at of a fledgling second Latin American “pink tide”, referring to the time period for a wave of left-wing electoral victories within the continent within the 2000s. Recent left-wing victories have included Gabriel Boric’s election in Chile and Xiomara Castro’s rise to energy in Honduras. Looking forward, eyes will probably be mounted not simply on Colombia’s historic vote however on the final elections in Brazil in November to see how the following chapter unfolds.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Fair Observer’s editorial coverage.

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