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Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro signs an alliance with his running mate in Bogotá.

Sebastian Barros via Reuters Connect

Will Colombia really elect a leftist?

As Colombians prepare to vote this Sunday for their next president, the country may be on the verge of a historic political shift. Though the race has tightened, senator and three-time presidential candidate Gustavo Petro maintains his lead in the polls, positioning him to become the country’s first-ever leftist leader. What are the drivers of this momentous change? We spoke with Eurasia Group analyst Sara Torres Raisbeck to find out.

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Petro reacts after winning the referendum vote for the Historic Pact coalition in Bogota.

REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

What We're Watching: Colombian presidential frontrunner, trouble in Corsica

Left-winger Petro is Colombia’s man to beat

Gustavo Petro ran the table in Sunday’s presidential primaries, drawing more votes from his Historic Pact Party’s voters alone than the winning candidates of the other two party primaries combined. In the May 29 first-round general vote Petro, a one-time guerrilla and former mayor of Bogotá, will face off against a bevy of at least five candidates, the strongest of whom include two former mayors of Medellín, the centrist Sergio Fajardo and right-winger Federico Gutierrez. But having surpassed 40 percent in recent polls, Petro could be on track to win outright in the first round. If he did, it would be a political earthquake in a country where decades of war with Marxist guerrillas had long kept national politics firmly on the center right. Petro has called for higher taxes on the wealthiest Colombians, ambitious land reform to help peasant farmers, and wants to shutter the country’s oil industry, which accounts for half of all export revenue. The country’s traditional political and business interests are naturally alarmed — so buckle up for what will be an exceedingly nasty campaign homestretch in South America’s third-largest economy and a major US ally.

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Annie Gugliotta

Five choices

We have lots of big elections on deck in 2022. Today we’ll preview five that will feature high international stakes and especially colorful candidates.

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