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News > Latin America

Colombia: Duque, Petro Set for 2nd Round Showdown Amid Calls for Leftist Alliance

  • Union workers march in support for Gustavo Petro.

    Union workers march in support for Gustavo Petro. | Photo: @sintrabiofilm

Published 2 May 2018

The latest polls place Gustavo Petro less than four percentage points behind his chief political rival, Ivan Duque.

Gustavo Petro, the leading progressive candidate in Colombia’s May 27 presidential elections, has received pledges of support from members of the Liberal Party, the Alternative Democratic Pole, and the Green Alliance despite a reluctance by the leadership of these parties to present a unified candidacy ahead of the election or create an electoral coalition.

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Petro’s popularity among more liberal or progressive voters, who belong to other left-leaning parties, has seen him make significant gains in the recent round of polls. The latest presidential election poll published by the Latin American Centre for Strategic Geopolitics (CELAG) gives Petro 30.1 percent of the voting intention, placing him less than four percentage points behind his chief political rival Ivan Duque, who is currently heading the polls with 34 percent.

Petro, who is running with the platform Humane Colombia, has made references to the Liberal Party’s historical leaders such as Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo, Rafael Uribe Uribe, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, and Luis Carlos Galan. The Liberal Party, founded in 1848, is Colombia’s oldest and most traditional party.

Responding to a tweet in which a user argued Petro's policies of "fight against poverty, directing the economy, pensions and health are anti-liberal," Petro said "my policies are the continuations of those proposed by the general Rafael Uribe Uribe, Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and Galan, the great liberals. Another thing is that today liberalism is confused with neoliberalism."  

According to analysts, Petro is being endorsed by the left-leaning voters base because his political platform embodies a coalition of the ideas voters from the various leftist parties. 

In an interview last week, Guillermo Santos, a Liberal senator said that while Liberals have abandoned the country’s ideals, Petro has incorporated them into his agenda.

“He (Petro) has been using the language that our candidate should have,” Santos explained.

While Nelson Paz Anaya, a former legislator with the Liberal Party, said the broad support for Petro's candidacy shouldn't come as a surprise since it echoes the feeling of different parties and social movements.

He said Petro's platform: "Includes a strong message giving people certainty... this is what’s happening in all the municipalities to such an extent that political and social leaders agree to share this preference to not go against it.”

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Raul Franco, a former mayor of Villavicencio and Liberal Party member, has been less candid in declaring his feelings about Petro. 

“I am absolutely convinced that Petro’s proposal and his capacities will realize the dreams of Luis Carlos Galan, of Gaitan, of Pumarejo, of Uribe Uribe, of all Liberals who have fought for health and education to stop being commodities and become rights… and to overcome the sickening inequality,” he said in a video posted to YouTube. 

Humberto De la Calle, the Liberal candidate, has been less vocal on issues on agrarian reform and other issues, which have traditionally formed part of the Liberal Party. Petro has, however, been outspoken on these issues.

Petro, the former mayor of Bogota, is also gaining support within the Alternative Democratic Pole's base. 

According to media reports published in April eight officials from the parties Executive Committee, including Ivan Cepeda, Alberto Castilla, Paolo Alirio and Alexander Lopez, asked that the party consider a coalition with Petro. The proposal along with a suggestion to grant members the freedom to support a candidate from outside were both rejected by the committee.

“What we wanted was for the party to recognize a real fact, this is what is happening. What I try to do is to express the sentiment of that base, which is already campaigning for Petro and manifest my conscientious objection to the committee's decision and I call on citizens to tell them that the vote is free,” Alirio told Semana.

A similar move is also underway within the Green Alliance with Angela Robledo, a legislator for the party, accepting an offer to become Petro’s Vice-President.

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