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Gabriela Madera

Elections in Colombia: an opportunity for the left?

- The elections that took place in Colombia appear to follow the same stream of civil thought as in most of Latin America.

Elections in Colombia: an opportunity for the left?

The elections that took place in Colombia seem to follow the same current of civil thought as in most of Latin America, starting from the general weariness of "business as usual." It should be remembered that the region shares a feeling of hopelessness in the face of neoliberalism, which arises after the failed models of import substitution that prevailed in the second half of the 20th century, during which families were pushed into poverty while their countries lived with totalitarian governments. , demagogues and corrupt.

In addition to the above, the surprise factor with the results of the first round became a reality, the product of a common feeling on the part of Colombians who are in search of a transformation in the country, resulting in the election of Gustavo Petro. as the future president of Colombia. While political specialists remarked that, regardless of the results, the contest between the leftist candidate and his counterpart, Rodolfo Hernández, was summed up in "one change against another change" (Turkewitz, 2022), Colombia joins other countries that have decided to tip the political balance in the region by removing weight from the right, which had historically been at the forefront of Latin America.

A president for the youth?

On the other hand, to understand the importance of the elections in Colombia, it is necessary to know the main candidates, their political positions, as well as the proposals they presented to the Colombian people. Beginning with the left-wing candidate and future president, Gustavo Petro, who achieved just over 8.5 million votes in his favor in the first electoral round and achieved victory in the second round with the support of 50.44% of the electorate. (Mesa, 2022), he was mayor of Bogotá in the period 2012-2016 and senator of the nation since 2018 as a result of his defeat by Iván Duque for the presidency (Turkewitz, J., 2022).

For the Mexican reading public, the foregoing may be familiar due to the similarities it shares with the arrival of the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the executive branch, especially based on the understanding that the Latin American populations seek a change in the traditional politics of their countries, opting for populist figures with left-wing ideological leanings. Petro and López Obrador seem to share the same perseverance to come to power in their States. In the case of the Mexican, victory would be granted until his third attempt at the polls after population resentment against previous governments and in search of "a vote of punishment".

Added to the above, that Petro obtained the victory was not surprising considering that he represents a figure of the progressive left in search of effecting a radical change in the structure and institutions of the Colombian government model. The foregoing derived from the socioeconomic inequalities in the country that began to gain relevance on the political agenda with the social outbreaks of 2019 and 2021, and considering the ravages left by the pandemic, the civilian population is vulnerable, which is why the guideline of change that is supported by popular proposals.

Likewise, the population sector that was sought to be attracted is consistent with the outstanding proposals of the candidates during their electoral campaign. In the case of Petro, his alliance with the Historical Pact stands out, which seems to encourage youth to vote for him; it emphasizes contemporary issues of interest such as the green agenda, underlining his commitment to environmental issues. On the other hand, his approach to the LGBT + community, as well as the election of the vice-presidential candidate, Francia Márquez, envisions an encouraging speech for a new type of government for Colombia.

In addition to the above, his proposals focused on the search for a connection with the Colombian population and the problems faced by certain vulnerable groups, which generates a feeling of hope and representation for that sector of the population that favors him in voting. Thus configuring some of the reasons that led him to his victory last Sunday, June 19.

Rodolfo Hernández as a response to the problems in Colombia?

If anything can stand out from the leading candidate of the Anti-Corruption Rulers League, it is his anti-establishment and unconventional spirit. Rodolfo Hernández turned out to be a very interesting candidate because of the position he took throughout his campaign, which is truly difficult to delimit within a political spectrum of the right or left.

Hernández, like Petro, has a political context prior to having been mayor of Bucaramanga in the period 2016-2019; a precedent that may have influenced the result of the first round, in which he obtained 28% of the votes and which led to a second round in which he had 47.03% of the electoral support (Mesa, 2022 ). An element that catapulted Hernández, and that precisely differentiated him from the other candidates, was the fact that he has an anti-system discourse where he denounces the corruption of the political class, as well as a narrative of populist proposals closer to the right. .

The proposal that led Hernández's campaign seems to be that corresponding to the fight against corruption, due to his proposal for the creation of a government body that would have the power to grant the return of money recovered after carrying out investigations against the same. At the same time, he supported a type of meritocracy by incentivizing city halls through prizes for reducing the rate of corruption. However, his speech becomes complex when he mentions the possibility of having the Prosecutor selected by popular vote, which made the civilian population nervous as it implies a constitutional reform.

Colombian voters were in discernment regarding his choice to define the candidate they wanted to see as president, taking into account that the factor of violence and impunity is something that seems to have weight in the decision for both candidates. In the case of Hernández, reference is made to some outstanding points regarding the uncertainty of granting him votes, since:

In the first round, the construction businessman did not want to be classified as right or left, but his ideas point to cutting politicians' expenses or reducing embassies and a frontal fight against corruption, one of the great concerns of Colombians, despite to the fact that he himself is involved in a case of illegal contracting during his term as mayor that is yet to be resolved in the courts.

He was also temporarily suspended on two occasions: for alleged political participation in the campaign for his succession in Bucaramanga and for hitting a councilor. (Reyes, Á.,2022)

Although Hernández has some background that puts him in question, Petro's case does not differ much from the previous one due to his past as a guerrilla, which generated discontent in the population that supports the opposition of this candidate.

Was this the expected result?

The polls compiled by CNN gave Gustavo Petro a hard-fought victory since, according to statistical indicators, Rodolfo Hernández would be a few points away from being able to win the presidency (Loaiza, MV, 2022). The undecided votes were those that could make the difference between who would lead the change in Colombia for the next four years, however, it was not enough to change the predictions about the victory of Petro.

This not only marks a milestone in Colombian political history by placing a left-wing candidate as leader of the country, it also grants the opportunity to grant greater representation to one of the sectors of the population with the highest rates of poverty and marginalization, by to have the first Afro-Colombian woman, Francia Márquez, at the head of the vice-presidency of the country. This is how, between uncertainty and expectation, on August 7, Gustavo Petro will take possession of the Colombian presidency.

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Madera, Gabriela. “Elecciones en Colombia: ¿una oportunidad para la izquierda?.” CEMERI, 30 ago. 2023,