Candidates in final race to clinch Colombia’s 2022 election

Fico Gutiérrez on the campaign trail. Ph: Hand-out

In yet another poll in which Colombians were asked “if the elections were held tomorrow,” progressive candidate Gustavo Petro has consolidated his lead with voting intention ahead of May 29. According to the poll released by the Centro Nacional de Consultoría (CNC), Petro comes out on top with 38%, followed by his main political rival, center-right candidate Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez, with 23%, independent Rodolfo Hernández with 16% and the center-left’s Sergio Fajardo with 7%.

While all the polls over the course of the presidential campaign indicate that no candidate will clinch victory on May 29 with 50% plus one vote, in the most-likely scenario that Petro and Gutiérrez will face-off in the June 19 second-round, the former Mayor of Bogotá, could still win the presidency with 47% of the vote.

Even though Petro, and vice-Presidential running mate Francia Márquez, are pushing for a definitive first-round victory, “Fico” Gutiérrez’s current standing among the electorate with 23% would jump to 39%, without counting potential votes from two other contenders – Ingrid Betancourt and Enrique Gómez – who are ideologically closer to the former Mayor of Medellín than Petro. And if the votes cast for Hernández and Fajardo – which add up to weighted 23% of the electorate – split evenly between camps Petro and Gutiérrez, the current Senator for the Colombia Humana party will have to give up his seat in Congress to become Colombia’s next President.

Petro is assured of his presidency, and during four years in “opposition” to President Iván Duque, has convinced his base of an inevitable victory. So assured is the front running candidate, however, that he has not relinquished his senatorial seat by law, and continues to receive a legislator’s salary in absentia.

With a four-year head start promoting his platform of “change,” Petro’s anti-establishment, anti-imports and pro-nationalisation narrative has also dominated social media, where the politician remains a lead protagonist compared to his rivals. As Petro focuses on the coast and a key battleground region that could shift the balance of power away from the traditional strongholds of Antioquia and district capital Bogotá, “Fico” Gutiérrez is wrapping up his campaign on the streets of the Colombian capital, in the hope that he can convince center-left voters to abandon Fajardo and narrow a double-digit lead that exists between “the candidate of the people” and Petro.

Born in the small coastal town of Ciénaga de Oro, Córdoba, the 62-year-old leader of Colombia Humana has been pushing a territorial-based campaign, rooted in rural issues and denouncement of the current government’s agricultural policies. For the 47-year-old civil engineer and urbanist “Fico” Gutiérrez, his campaign has also reached-out to “the other Colombia,” one abandoned by the state’s security presence and besieged by illegal armed groups. “Fico’s” vow to combat organized crime, while keeping the door open to possible peace talks with the ELN guerrilla resounds among many across Colombia who lived the internal armed conflict before the government and FARC signed the 2016 peace agreement.

While the CNC gives Petro a significant lead over “Fico” in the first round of voting (38% v. 23%), another recent poll by Guarumo/El Tiempo narrows the numbers down to 36% and 30%, respectively.

Given that the majority of pollsters survey populations in Colombia’s largest cities, the question is how the country’s rural vote – and one traditionally arch conservative – will determine the final outcome of the 2022 election.

Photo: Petro Presidente