Colombia Elections 2018: President Santos, candidates vote in historic election

El Presidente Juan Manuel Santos en compañía de su familia, en el momento de depositar la papeleta en las elecciones presidenciales de este domingo.

President Juan Manuel Santos voted early Sunday for his successor and first head of state to govern a post-conflict Colombia. Accompanied by his wife María Clemencia Rodríguez, son Martín and daughter María Antonia, President Santos cast his ballot on the grounds of the nation’s Capitol.

As he ends his second term as president, the 2016 Nobel Peace prize laureate, invited millions of Colombians who began voting at when polls opened at 8 am “to participate massively, happily, and peacefully.” Santos assured voters that all five candidates have presented “their proposals, ideas for Colombia in order to continue advancing, to progress, to build peace.”

At dawn long queues began to form outside the largest voting center in the country, Corferias, and measure of citizen’s participation in a crucial election in which the future of Colombia’s peace process is at stake.

The candidate for the right-wing Centro Democrático party, Iván Duque, and who has maintained the lead in voting intention since the campaign began mid-March, voted at 9:00 am at the National Pedagogical Institute in Bogotá surrounded by well-wishers and accompanied by his three children.

Considered the political protégée of the two-term president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Duque has vowed to make modifications to the peace accord. The 41-year old Bogotá-born economist was given a landslide endorsement on March 11 with Grand Consultation for Colombia.

Duque maintains a 10-point lead over socialist candidate Gustavo Petro of Colombia Humana, according to the last poll conducted by Yanhass. Petro called on citizens via twitter to: “be free and change for good the history of Colombia.” The former mayor of Bogotá and 58-year old politician voted at 10 am in the district school Marco Antonio Carreño in Bogotá’s south, accompanied by his wife Verónica Alcocer and daughter Antonella. Before placing the ballot in the cardboard box, Petro revealed to the media his vote, with his face, and that of his vice-presidential formula, Angela María Robledo, clearly visible.

Another candidate who voted in the south of the Colombian capital is Germán Vargas Lleras of the Better Lleras movement. Vargás Lleras is an experienced politician who has held various government posts, including the vice-presidency during much of Santos’ second term. Vargas Lleras comes from one of Colombia’s most prominent families, his mother is the daughter of the former conservative president Carlos Lleras Restrepo who governed between 1966 and 1970. After heading to the voting station in Ciudad Jardín, Vargas Lleras tweeted: “See you in the second round.”

Should none of the five candidates get more than the 50% plus one threshold on Sunday, a run-off will held on Sunday, June 17. The president-elect will assume power on August 7.

Former mayor of Colombia’s second largest city, Medellín and former governor of the department of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo voted just after polls opened in his home city. Fajardo is the independent candidate of the Compromiso Ciudadano coalition. The 61-year old mathematician was responsible during his term as mayor for implementing wide-ranging educational and social programs. Fajardo will be in Bogotá to receive the results of these elections once polls close at 4 pm and National Registry begins to release its official bulletins.

Colombia’s former Chief Peace negotiator and experienced statesman Humberto de la Calle  cast his vote in Bogotá’s Usaquén locality accompanied by his vice-presidential formula, Clara López.

De la Calle spent four years negotiating the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla in Havana, and that ended more than a half-century of conflict. The Final Accord was ratified in November 2016. As a staunch supporter of Colombia’s peace process, De La Calle has wide-ranging support from centrist voters, as well as younger generation who have never lived in a country at peace. “I will continue working toward reconciliation” remarked De la Calle on Sunday.

As of 11 am, the National Police announced that the electoral process across the country was transpiring in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.