Colombia's new president?

A one-time leftist rebel takes on a young right-winger on June 17

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A brief guide to the Colombian election

By Diane Cooke

Colombians have voted in the first round of the country's first presidential election since a controversial peace deal between the government and FARC rebels in 2016.

The President of Colombia is elected using the two-round system; if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the first round, a run-off is held between the top two candidates.

The votes had been dominated by a battle between two candidates: Ivan Duque of the right-wing Democratic Centre party and Gustavo Petro, a leftist candidate who is a one-time rebel and former mayor of Bogota.

Duque won Colombia’s first round presidential vote on May 27. Although he didn’t break 40 percent of the vote, he did beat runner-up Petro by a 14-point margin. To win the presidency, a candidate must secure a majority of votes. A second round will be held on June 17 and the winner will begin a four-year term in August.

Six polls were released in Colombia over the past few days, giving a clear picture of who is likely to win the second round of the presidential election.

All polls agree that the conservative candidate, Ivan Duque, continues to lead, having consolidated the support he obtained in the first round that he won with 39.14% against the 25.08% of the votes.

His leftist rival, Gustavo Petro, is behind by between six and 20 percentage points, depending on the pollsters.

However, some polls have indicated that Petro is catching up. Apparently, he has been more successful in appealing to many of the centrist supporters of Sergio Fajardo and Humberto de la Calle who left the race after the first round.

On average, Duque can count on the support of 50% of the participants in six polls. Petro is lagging behind with 37%. The remaining 13% are people who said they would cast a blank ballot.

Over the past few days, the leftist candidate also received the endorsement of prominent anti-corruption advocates from the center of the Colombian political spectrum, with whom he shares the concern that the election of the conservative candidate could plunge the country back into armed conflict.

Around 36 million Colombians are eligible to vote, according to a March 2018 electoral census. Voter turnout has traditionally been low, with 48 percent voting in the second round of the last presidential election in 2014.

However, turnout for the first round surpassed 50 percent for the first time this century, but observers expect that to fall in the runoff as many centrist voters may stay home — particularly because there are World Cup matches featuring Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico that day.

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