On Sunday, May 27, Colombia held the first round of its presidential election. For the first time in twenty years, the participation rate surpassed fifty percent of registered voters, given the wide spectrum of five major candidates and the high political stakes. After eight years of President Juan Manuel Santos and the implementation of the historic Peace Accord with the FARC, Colombians are mobilized and optimistic about the future. Moreover, the unprecedented levels of peace and security throughout the national territory also allowed for more sectors of the population, particularly throughout the countryside, to vote. The three candidates representing Colombia’s center-left and center-right tendencies failed to form a united political front and, consequently, also failed to advance to the second round. The second and definitive round will be held on June 17 between the right-wing candidate Ivan Duque and the hard-left candidate Gustavo Petro. It is expected that Ivan Duque, who is the candidate of the Democratic Center Party as well as the Conservative Party, will easily win the second round to become Colombia’s next president. Having come out ahead in the first electoral round, having the backing of former President Alvaro Uribe, and having a pro-business platform, Ivan Duque should easily manage to gather votes from both center and right wing constituencies. Meanwhile, Gustavo Petro will struggle to widen his electoral base given his poor performance as the former mayor of Bogota as well as his left-wing tendencies, which remind Colombians of Venezuelan authoritarianism.
Colombia’s Bright Path Looking Forward
This historic election in Colombia comes after eight years under the leadership of Juan Manuel Santos, who has achieved a number of important milestones for the country. Firstly, President Santos signed a historic yet controversial Peace Accord with Colombia’s oldest guerrilla group, the FARC. This achievement earned President Santos the Nobel Peace Prize and has helped reduce violence within the country, which has also boosted investment and tourism. On the international front, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is an elite club of the world’s most advanced free market economies, decided to invite Colombia to officially join as the organization’s thirty-seventh member. Established in Paris in 1961, the stated mission of the OECD is “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” Currently, the OECD has 36 members and the incorporation of Colombia signals an unprecedented degree of maturity in terms of its social and economic development as it becomes the third Latin American member of the organization, alongside Chile and Mexico. Other Latin American countries that have expressed interest in joining the OECD include Brazil, Argentina, and Costa Rica. Currently, other key members of the OECD are most of the European Union member states, the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Japan, and Turkey. Simultaneously, Colombia is the first Latin American country to be named a “Global Partner” of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which means that the country will henceforth enjoy close ties with the world’s foremost military alliance.