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A flyer with the image of Colombian left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro and Colombian centre-right presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez.

Reuters

It's populist vs. populist in Colombia

Voters around the world often say they want change — but rarely are they presented with no choice but to elect a radically different political outsider. That’s what’s happening this weekend in Colombia’s presidential runoff that’s unlike any other in recent memory: the contest pits a populist against … another populist.

The context: Colombians are fed up. And why not? The past several years have seen two separate explosions of popular protest over inequality and taxes. The pandemic, meanwhile, pushed 3.5 million more Colombians into poverty, and inflation is at its highest level in more than 20 years. Cocaine production has recently touched all-time highs, and violence and petty crime are rising again after years of decline. Small wonder that a recent poll by Invamer, a Colombian agency, found that nearly 75% of Colombians think their country is headed in the wrong direction.

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Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández speaks at a news conference in Miami.

REUTERS/Marco Bello

Will the “Colombian Trump” win the presidency?

The second round of Colombia’s presidential election on June 19 will pit leftist Senator Gustavo Petro against populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández. While Petro would represent big structural change from the conservative establishment that has governed the country for decades, Hernández would represent a change in the way politics are done. Petro, a three-time presidential candidate and prominent critic of the current administration of President Iván Duque, had initially appeared likely to run away with the election. But Hernández, a newcomer to the national political stage, came on strong in the late stages of the campaign and finished a close second to Petro in the 29 May first round of the election.

We spoke to Eurasia Group analyst Sara Torres Raisbeck to find out a little more about who Hernández is, and what Colombia might look like if he wins.

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A supporter of Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez in Bogota.

REUTERS/Vannessa Jimenez

What We’re Watching: Colombia’s “anti” runoff, Pacific meh on China, Sudan ends emergency

It’s anti vs. anti in Colombia presidential runoff

Colombians wanted change? Well, now they’ll have no choice! In the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, the top two finishers were leftist opposition leader Gustavo Petro (40%) and Rodolfo Hernández (28%), an independent populist tycoon who surged late in the campaign with an anti-corruption message. The two will head to a runoff on June 19. Both promise a radical reorientation of the Andean country at a time of high inequality, rising violence, and simmering social tensions. For Petro, the answer lies in super-taxing the rich, massively expanding the social safety net, and decarbonizing the economy. Hernández, meanwhile, wants to slash taxes, shrink the state bureaucracy, and even legalize cocaine. We’ll have more to say ahead of the runoff, but for now: has the election of any other major economy in recent memory featured a presidential runoff between TWO stridently anti-establishment figures like this?

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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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