Grey skies and rain didn’t put off Bogotanos this morning, as they thronged voting stations. As the grim clouds gave way to sunshine in the afternoon, so too did Colombia’s presidential election results become clearer. Rodolfo Hernández will join Gustavo Petro in the second round in three week’s time.
After an often gruelling and bitter first round of campaigning, the results of the first round of Colombia’s presidential election are in. As expected, Gustavo Petro has taken first place with just over 40% of the vote. He will be joined by Rodolfo Hernández who took around 28% at time of publishing (97% declared). Campaigning for the second round will begin in earnest tomorrow, with both sides aiming to convince the 30% of voters who went for other candidates. On June 19, we will be back at the ballot boxes to see who will be the next President of the Republic.
Although it was no surprise to see Gustavo Petro take first place in the first round, the vote percentage is key. The votes are not fully counted, but it seems that he will take around 40%. That puts him in a strong position for the second round, but the challenge is that he’s unlikely to pick up many of Fico voters. With Hernández not only beating Fico but polling near 30%, he will need to bring some of those voters over to his side.
On the other hand, Rodolfo – who was polling in third place – will be delighted to have made the second round. The hard work starts here, though, with a deficit of around 12 percentage points to make up. If he can pick up a good proportion of Fico’s votes, he’d be able to win. But it isn’t clear how many people will simply cast a vote against Petro. We also don’t know whether turnout will increase or decrease, and whether Rodolfo can keep the votes he’s picked up in recent weeks of campaigning.
On what was a grim and grey morning in Bogotá, turnout was just over 50% from Colombia’s 39 million registered voters. With 97% of tables declared, there had been just 20,660,000 votes cast, broadly in line with recent Colombian elections. It’s possible that the second round will see a higher turnout, although that remains to be seen. What is for sure is that Colombian democracy as a whole is still turning off an increasingly disengaged electorate. Voto en blanco picked less than 2%, but it’s of more concern just how many people don’t even take that option.
Another concern is over irregularities. This euphemistic phrase covers a wide gamut of shenanigans, from vote-buying to fraud to other dodgy practices. Twitter has been aflame with supposed irregularities. As of their report at 3:30PM, 322 reports had been made to MOE, an independent monitoring organisation. That number is likely to increase in the next few days, as people come forward. The Petro camp have also raised concerns about the registrar’s office.