Colombia Pro-business, conservative Ivan Duque wins presidential election

South America

18 June 2018, 03:09

Deutsche Welle

Colombia Pro-business, conservative Ivan Duque wins presidential election

With 97 percent of stations counted on Sunday night after Colombia’s presidential runoff election, conservative candidate Ivan Duque had a 54 percent share of the votes. His leftist opponent Gustavo Petro, a former rebel, had 41 percent.

Turnout was reported at 53 percent, only slightly lower than for the first round of voting three weeks ago. Officials had initially said it was only 44 percent.

Petro has conceded defeat, but said winning by 8 million votes to Duque’s 10.3 million in the conservative country was a great achievement. “What defeat? Eight million free Colombians taking a stand. There is no defeat here. For now we won’t be the government,” he wrote on Twitter.

The elections were the first to be held since a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The 41-year-old Duque has followed in the steps of former president and current senator Alvaro Uribe. After voting for Duque and his vice presidential candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez on Sunday, Uribe said Duque was the best guarantee against Colombia falling victim to “destructive socialism,” referring to crisis-hit neighbor Venezuela.

From opposite ends of the political spectrum, both candidates promised to tackle corruption and improve the economy.

Duque said he would review parts of the 2016 peace accord which brought an end to a leftist rebel insurgency that lasted more than 50 years. That deal gave guaranteed seats in Congress for FARC rebel leaders and promises of lenient sentences for crimes committed during the conflict.

From Washington to Bogota

The president-elect has spent most of his working life in the United States, working in the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. He was chosen for a senate seat in 2014 by Uribe, a strong opponent to the peace deal.

Many of Duque’s supporters had given him their vote because of Uribe’s endorsement. He also gained support from the far-right and the increasingly influential evangelical Christians.

Duque is a social conservative who opposes gay marriage, euthanasia and the decriminalization of drugs. He will become Colombia’s youngest president when he takes office on August 7.

Rural parts of Colombia often lack basic infrastructure

Challenges for the new president

On Duque’s presidential agenda is not only the peace deal but also narco-trafficking. Colombia’s production of cocaine has increased, and armed groups are fighting each other for control of routes once controlled by FARC.

Latin America’s fourth-largest economy is heavily dependent on exports of coal, nickel, coffee, fruits, textiles and clothing. Duque has said he wants to increase oil production through technology such as fracking.

Duque has also spoken of promoting agribusiness, tourism and goods and services related to creativity, through the work of Colombian film directors, writers, musicians, video producers, actors and artists.