Decisive presidential election in Colombia

Two nationalists and “Colombian Trump”. Ahead of Colombia’s second round of presidential elections on Sunday, the coming to power of the left, for the first time in the country’s history, with Gustav Peter’s candidacy, remains uncertain since his sudden arrival in the equation.outsider Rodolfo Hernandez. The seven-year-old, who is often compared to the American populist, overshadowed the traditional right in the first round last May, taking second place.

Therefore, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the election. A recent Invamer poll, published last week, crystallized neck and neck by attributing 48.2% of voting intentions to Mr Hernández, 77, compared to 47.2% for the youngest politician, Mr Petra, 62, a former Bogota mayor and former member. guerrillas M-19. The difference is in the margin of error.

Reaching the top of the first round, this left-wing candidate hoped to usher in the country by ousting the right-wing outgoing president, Ivan Duque, represented by the center-right center-right candidate Federico Gutiérrez in the June 19 election. The latter was humiliated by third place, confirming the collapse of Uribism, the hegemonic neoliberal narrative in Colombia initiated by Álvaro Uribe at the turn of the century.

“Hernández’s presence in the second round is very bad news for Gustavo Petra, who was counting on the unpopularity of the outgoing government and the coalition that supported him to win the election,” he summed up in an interview with You have to political scientist Yann Basset, director of the DEMOS-UR group for the study of democracy at the Universidad del Rosario, in Bogotá. Facing another anti-systemic and nationalist candidate, just like him, is now making the task more difficult, while putting Colombian voters in front of a serious dilemma and Colombia in front of a decisive moment in its history.

“It is very likely that the next president of Colombia will be Rodolfo Hernández,” said Juan Gabriel Gómez Albarello, a Colombian policy specialist at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, who portrays the candidate from the sidelines as a skilled politician. , endemic to Colombia, and by causing a sense of loss of confidence in institutions, a feeling that Colombians are increasingly expressing after more than two years of pandemics.

Paradoxically, this man himself is the target of justice for his country due to an irregular contract signed during his tenure as mayor of the big city of Bucaramanga, between 2016-2019.

“Like populist candidates in other countries, Rodolfo Hernández grew rapidly with an anti-establishment agenda that appealed to many voters in the midst of a deep economic and social crisis,” said Laura García Montoya, a political scientist at Rosario University. His rhetoric focuses on corrupt political elites who have been unable to make the necessary changes. And the recipe seems to have worked, as it did in 2016 for Donald Trump in the United States.

“The similarities are indisputable,” added Luka Melchiorre, a professor of political science at the Universidad de los Andes, in the Colombian capital. Like the American populist, Rodolfo Hernández is a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in real estate development. Moreover, he is also an atypical, middle-aged politician who has successfully used social networks to establish a direct and powerful connection with a growing group of followers. »

Under the nickname “engineer”, he really invested in the social network TikTok with simple repetitive messages: “don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t betray”. After the results of the first round were published, he avoided the mainstream media because of his speech about second place, preferring to address his followers from his kitchen on Facebook.

This direct and unadorned communication of politicians, rich and connected to the political and economic world of the country, has brought closer to the electoral base a victim of growing social inequalities in Colombia, certainly, but attracted, despite these contradictions, strong image of man.

Honest conversation

“Rodolfo is unfiltered. One of the advantages of his strategy is to show himself as he is […], with the mistakes he sometimes makes because of his openness, but also his freedom to say things “, explains Angel Becassino, his main advisor for the campaign, and quoted by Agence France-Presse. Even if this sometimes testifies to sincere vulgarity and suggests an authoritarian presidency that could quickly come into conflict with the principles of the rule of law.

In the campaign, Rodolfo Hernández vowed to challenge ” phase conmocion interior (state of internal shock) to ruthlessly address the causes of endemic corruption in Colombian political institutions, suspending some laws and trying to impose others without congressional approval. He threatened in advance members of the legislature who would not support his projects.

He illustrated himself with viral videos praising Adolf Hitler – he later apologized – or even hitting a city councilor who accused him of being corrupt.

“The recording, which was released to the public, also shows an associate telling her to wipe her ass with the law after she refused to do what he asked because she thought it was illegal,” added Juan Gabriel Gómez Albarello.

“Before his victory in the first round, voters did not know him well,” said Colombian political strategist Sergio Guzmán, director and co-founder of Colombia Risk Analysis, on the other hand. The driving force is approaching that populist swear language, or its sometimes embarrassing simplicity faced with complex issues, has been hiccuping since its sudden victory, he adds, but probably not enough to offer a breakthrough to the left on June 19th.

“Colombia is a very conservative society and many fear what the left-wing government could bring about change,” said Victor Uribe-Uran, a history professor and specialist at Colombia at Florida International University who joined the United States. The vote for Hernández is primarily a vote against Peter, but also against Gutiérrez, whom the electorate considers incapable of defeating the left-wing candidate in the second round. »

Opposites, but not distant ones

In these circumstances, “Gustavo Petro seeks to present himself in the second part of his campaign as the most coherent, pluralistic and, above all, best prepared candidate for power, emphasizing the great uncertainty surrounding Hernández’s ideological perspective. , a very big risk for the voters and for the state, for the left “, analyzes Luke Melchiorre.

Since the start of this presidential election, polls have shown that a large proportion of Colombians who go to the polls need change. Thirst is now facing a difficult choice, especially in the face of two opposing candidates who are not that far apart, warns Juan Gabriel Gómez Albarello. “Today, all attention seems to be focused on Hernandez’s excesses, but careful observers note that Petro also has significant despotic potential. He and his entourage express a very strong sectarian discourse, he adds. They are the tropical embodiment of Robespierre and Saint-Just, who are believed to be very honest, but with a rather loose sense of obedience to the law and an almost non-existent respect for the division of power. »

Petro once mentioned that his books were by his bed when he was young Don Quixotewhich the present has turned into a kind of metaphor of Trampism, and Social contract Rousseau, philosopher of political and social totality.

He adds: “As Chávez did in Venezuela and Orban in Hungary, as Trump tried to do in the United States, Petro and petristas [nom donné à ses partisans] they will no doubt try to coerce or manipulate the judiciary so that it does not stand in their way. And that is not very encouraging because, whoever wins on Sunday night, Colombia will inevitably have very difficult years ahead of them. »

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