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On Sunday, people in Colombia head to the polls to elect a new president. to me The election The elections could lead to a historic change in Colombian politics.

Gustavo Petro is the first left-wing candidate since the 1940s with a real chance of winning the presidential election, Colombia expert Elizabeth Dickinson of the International Crisis Group tells NRK.

Popularity: According to Reuters, Petro leads opinion polls with about 40 percent of the vote.

Photo: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

The front-runner in the polls, Gustavo Pietro, belonged to the urban guerrilla group M-19 in the 1970s and 1980s, and served time in prison for committing stored weapons to gather.

According to Dickinson, two things in particular opened up a new political situation in Colombia: social unrest and a peace agreement.

fragile peace


Hope fades: In 2016, support for a peace agreement was higher than it is today, according to the International Crisis Group.

Photo: Evan Valencia/AP

In 2016, Colombian authorities signed a peace agreement with the guerrilla group FARC. Prior to that, conflict in the country caused the political left to struggle with stigma and association with militants, according to Dickinson.

The peace agreement was certainly crucial to opening up to greater participation and support for Colombia’s political left, she says.

Elizabeth Dickinson is an analyst with the International Crisis Group in Colombia

The Last Hope: Analyst Elizabeth Dickinson of the International Crisis Group believes the presidential election is the last chance for a peace agreement

Photo: International Crisis Group

However, in recent years Colombia has experienced new waves of violence, as well as economic and social turmoil.

to me Red Cross 2021 was the most violent year in Colombia since the parties signed the peace agreement.


Wave of violence: Indigenous leader José Albero Camayo was killed by defectors from the FARC in January of this year.


Confidence in the state and its ability to implement the terms of the peace agreement collapsed. The hope is that the new president will be able to chart a new course, Dickinson tells NRK, but this is really the last chance for a peace agreement.

increasing poverty


Ciudad Bolivar: The area south of the capital, Bogota, is mainly inhabited by poor families displaced by the conflict in Colombia.

Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP

In a country with great economic and social differences, Petro’s popularity has increased in recent years in line with the growing discontent in Colombia.

to me world bank lived below the 40 percent poverty line in 2020. Colombia is also one of the world’s most deviant societies.


Protest: In 2021, large-scale demonstrations erupted throughout Colombia.

Photo: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

In recent years it has been major protests against the economic policies of the current government. Petro was one of the leaders of the protests.

He’s not a little-known name in Colombian politics. Previously, he was a senator and rapporteur in the capital, Bogota.

Benedict Paul, Center for Environment and Development, UiO

Professor Benedict Paul, Center for Environment and Development, UiO

Photo: Anja Bergersen / UIO

He still does not represent the classic Latin American political elite, and could be more reminiscent of the current Mexican President López Obrador, explains Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo, Benedict Paul.

Meet the “protest candidate”

The Colombian presidential election is similar to the French election. If no candidate gets 50 percent in the first round, the elections will be held in a second round in June.

to me The election Petro may meet Federico “Fico” Gutierrez. Paul explains that he is the center-right candidate and the so-called “protest alternative” to Petro’s growing popularity.


Second place: Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez is set to be Petro’s second-round competitor.

Photo: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

Petro occasionally suffered as mayor of Bogotá, and many questioned whether he would be able to govern Colombia in a good and united way. As president, he will face a difficult political constellation. Paul explains that the risk that he wants so much, but gets so little done, is unfortunately great.

hoping for a change

Oscar Nogueira believes that riots in 2021 showed that political change is possible in Colombia.

Nogueira studies in Norway, but is actively following the May 29 presidential elections in Colombia.

Photo: Matthias Moeny Rudd/NRK

Among those who will vote for Petro Colombian Oscar Dario Guerra Nogueira (29). He is currently studying in Norway.

Noguera comes from Cali, one of the cities incumbent President Ivan Duque suppressed most during the national protests last year. Now he hopes for a systematic change.


On fire: in Cali, in 2021, more people were killed in clashes between authorities and protesters during the “Barro Nacional” (national strike)

Photo: Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

I think the big protests last year really caught the eye of many Colombians. When people are willing to die in the streets to advocate for change, they will surely also go and vote when they have the opportunity now, Noguera told NRK.

He also previously voted for Petro, and believes the presidential candidate for decades has shown that he fights against corruption and for the weak in society.

Together with the vice presidential candidate, Francia Márquez, they represent something other than the well-established political elite that has always ruled Colombia. Nogueira says it’s time for a change.


We Stand Together: Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro on the podium with Vice Presidential candidate Francia Marquez.

Photo: Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

Death threats and racist debate

New waves of violence and death threats against presidential candidates overshadowed the election campaign. However, it was Petro’s vice presidential candidate who stole many international headlines.

Afro-Colombian minority woman and Award-Winning Environmental ActivistFrancia Marquez in a few months became a national phenomenon.


Iconic figure: The BBC has previously included Francia Marquez in its first list of ‘BBC 100 Women of 2019’

Photo: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

When she was 16 years old, she was a single mother and worked as a maid. The 41-year-old’s running for vice president has now started a debate about class and race in Colombia, according to Professor Benedict Paul.

Marquez became an important symbolic figure in the struggle for the poor, women and minorities. Paul says many cases in Colombia have been killed by it in the past.

An uncertain future for peace


Disarmed: In 2016, the guerrilla group FARC surrendered its weapons. Now many fear that the peace agreement will not last.


Dickinson of the International Crisis Group believes that Marquez’s contribution to the government will undo parts of the peace agreement that have not received much attention since the signing.

I especially think that the less enforceable parts of the peace agreement dealing with race and gender, will have a renewed focus with Petro and Marquez.


Fear of return: The military was in existence before the 2014 elections. A total of five presidential candidates have been killed in Colombia in modern times. Now more and more people fear a return to violence.

Photo: Santiago Cortez/AP

Professor Ball is a little more cautious in his optimism, and points out that the peace agreement may have had better conditions for success six years ago than now.

No matter who wins, this is an unfortunate time to come to power. When the price of gas, oil, and food goes up as now, the popularity of the incumbent always goes down.

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