Ex-fighter Petro wins decisive victory in Colombia’s presidential primaries

Gustavo Petro, the frontrunner in Colombia’s May presidential election, secured the nomination of the leftist Historic Charter Alliance on Sunday during a vote in the primaries.

Centrist Sergio Fajardo and right-wing Federico Gutierrez, both former mayors of Colombia’s second-largest city Medellin, also received nominations from their coalitions.

Petro, a former fighter in the M19 rebel group, and Gutierrez, a civil engineer, both polled well on their coalition rivals.

In the historic Charter primaries, Petro won more than 80%–about 3.5 million votes–with about 80% of the electoral district. Gutierrez won more than 54% – about 1.7 million ballot papers – in the primaries of a coalition that represents a section of Colombia’s right-wing, with about 80% counted.

The competition for the middle group was much closer. Fajardo, the mathematician, won by less than 33% — or roughly 590,000 votes — with a count of 80%.

Voters also cast their votes for 108 seats in the Senate and 187 seats in the House of Representatives.

The Colombian Congress was divided among countless parties in the last election, forcing presidents to build grand coalitions in order to pass legislation. Full legislative results are expected on Monday.

The right-wing Democratic Center Party of incumbent President Ivan Duque has chosen Oscar Ivan Zuluaga as its presidential candidate.

Petro lost to Duque – whose term ends in August – in the second round of the 2018 presidential election.

Some voters at a polling station in the south of the capital, Bogota, told Reuters they voted for Petro, who is also a former senator, in the hope of creating jobs.

“I want us to have more work, so that it is easier to get a formal job,” said Alberto Lopez, an unemployed supporter of Petro.

Others said that an eventual moderate victory could help counter the polarization.

“We can’t continue to fall between Petro and Uribe’s choice,” said textile trader Alicia Chavaro, 46, referring to former President Alvaro Uribe whose influence was key in the elections of Colombia’s last two presidents.

Residents of the 167 municipalities most affected by the country’s long conflict voted to select 16 representatives from the war victims.

Their seats – which are in two legislative terms – were agreed upon under a 2016 peace deal between the government and now-demobilized FARC fighters.


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