With 98% of the vote counted, preliminary results showed left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro with just over 40% of the vote, populist former mayor of Bucaramanga Rodolfo Hernández with 28%, and right-wing candidate Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez with 23%.
Petro and Hernandez are expected to face each other in the second round of voting on June 19th.
Polling stations closed late Sunday night with no major reports of violence or unrest.
“We have one of the oldest democracies in this hemisphere. We have one of the strongest democracies, and it’s getting strong because every four years we make an orderly transition,” outgoing President Ivan Duque said Sunday.
The vote came at one of the most turbulent periods in Colombia’s modern history, as the country suffered from the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, social unrest and a deteriorating security situation.
Duque’s own ratings are currently low, and his tenure has been overshadowed by his administration’s handling of police behavior, inequality and clashes between organized crime groups.
For the first time in the country’s history, popular discontent brought the left to the attention of the president. However, preliminary results suggest the failure of 62-year-old Petro, a former guerrilla fighter and mayor of Bogota, widely seen as a leading candidate.
If elected next month, Petro would become Colombia’s first left-wing leader; his running mate, Francia Márquez, would also become the first Afro-Colombian to be given executive power. Petro has proposed a radical overhaul of the country’s economy to combat some of the highest levels of inequality in the world.
Meanwhile, Hernandez, 77, reached out to centrist voters with a unique social media campaign. The self-proclaimed “King of TikTok” refused to participate in several TV debates and gave several interviews to foreign media outlets, although he appeared on CNN in his pajamas, saying he was “a man of the people.”
CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon reported from Bogota and Michel Vélez from Atlanta.