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Presidential elections in Colombia 2022 - statistics & facts

On June 19, 2022, approximately 39 million Colombians were summoned to elect the next president and vice-president of the Republic for the following four years in a runoff between the two most voted candidates of the primaries held on May 29: Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández. A total of 22.66 million people exercised their right to vote, which translated into a national turnout rate of merely 58.1 percent. Petro received more than 11.2 million votes, winning the elections and becoming the first elected left-wing president of Colombia. The candidate for the coalition Pacto Histórico served as Senator and also as mayor of Bogotá and became involved with the guerrilla organization 19th of April Movement in his youth, and later became member of the political party M-19 Democratic Alliance. By electing Petro, Colombians also appointed Francia Márquez as vice-president. Afro-Colombian activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Márquez has become the first black vice-president in the South American country.

The incumbent president, Iván Duque, will leave his office with high disapproval rates, as about 45 percent of Colombians rate his government as bad or very bad. Duque won the runoff elections in 2018, the first elections held after the Peace Deal of 2016 with the FARC, the most notorious guerrilla group in the country. Six years after the agreement, Colombia still struggles with a worrisome incidence of crime as other groups such as ELN filled the void left by the FARC, as well as frequent murders of ex-FARC members and low trust in the JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace), the transitional tribunal created by the agreement to judge the crimes commited during the armed conflict. Duque also faced with the coronavirus pandemic, the massive protests of 2019-2020, and the national strike of 2021, events that attracted international attention because of the extreme police brutality.

An unusual presidential race

Besides high rates of crime and social discontent, the next government will need to handle the economic problems derived from the high inflation rate. The economy, corruption, unemployment, and the lack of security are the most pressing national problems according to the public and have been a recurrent topic in the presidential race, together with issues such as the reform of the pension system or government subsidies.

Recent changes in the social and political sphere have been reflected in the electoral campaign as well. Politics are becoming more diversified, with an increasing presence of women, afro-Colombians, and LGTBQ+ individuals in the new composition of the Congress after the legislative elections of March 2022. Moreover, after decades of influence in Colombian politics, the electoral race seems to have witnessed the demise of uribismo. Even after the end of his presidency in 2010, Álvaro Uribe and his ideology continued to shape politics in the country, boosting incumbent president Duque to power and pushing for militarization as the best option to fight violence and crime in the country. Scandals such as the “false positives”, his alleged links to paramilitarism and investigations for witness tampering seem to have ruined Álvaro Uribe’s public image. As a result, the electoral candidate of uribismo, Óscar Iván Zuluaga, retired from the electoral race after the poor results obtained in the legislative elections.

Voting intention and primaries

As of April 2022, Petro had the largest share of intended votes, followed by Federico ‘Fico’ Gutiérrez, who rose in the opinion polls as the most favored candidate of the right after Zuluaga retired from the campaign. Petro's coalition, Pacto Histórico, was particularly popular among young adults and voters from Bogotá and the South-West region.

In an unexpected turn of events, Gutiérrez, the closest candidate to the oficialismo in this campaign and who seemed to be the second most popular contender according to the opinion polls, ended up in a third place in the primaries. He was surpassed by Rodolfo Hernández, businessmen, former mayor of Bucaramanga, and founder of the movement Liga de Gobernantes Anticorrupción, who obtained nearly six million votes, against Gutiérrez's 5.1 million votes. As for Petro, he received 40.32 percent of the votes cast, equivalent to 8.53 million ballots. As in most countries in Latin America, Colombia has a two-round system. Therefore, as no candidate obtained more than half of the votes on May 29, voters elected their president and vice-president in a runoff election that was held in June 2022. This was the second time Petro reached the runoff elections, as he was the candidate that faced Duque in the second round of the 2018 presidential elections.

Petro's victory in the race to Casa Nariño consolidated the turn to the left or resurgence of a new "pink tide" in Latin America after the recent elections of left-wing politicians in Chile, Honduras, and Peru.

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