On Sunday, in the presidential primaries in Colombia, the Historical Pact, a coalition that brings together the bulk of the Colombian left, won 17 seats in the Senate and 25 seats in the House of Representatives.
In these elections, the big loser was the Democratic Center, a right-wing party led by former President Alvaro Uribe that had been the main political force in the country until now.
With just over 99 per cent of votes counted in the leftwing primary, Gustavo Petro had taken over 80 per cent of the vote in a contest between five candidates. He will now go on to the first round of the presidential election on May 29 and most opinion polls suggest he is favourite to win.
“This is the best result for progressives in the history of Colombia,” Petro told supporters on Sunday night. “We’re on the verge of winning the presidency of Colombia in the first round.” If he wins the presidency, Petro, a senator, former congressman and ex-mayor of Bogotá, would take Colombia sharply leftwards after four years of rightwing rule under President Iván Duque.
However, the Colombian right, although fragmented into six parties, will continue to be a majority in Congress, which will force the Historical Pact to seek alliances with the Green Alliance Coalition and the Hope Center, both of which have 14 seats in the Senate.
In the upper house, the rest of the positions were reached by the Conservative Party (15), the Liberal Party (15), the Democratic Center (14), Radical Change (11), the U Party (10) and the Coalition Mira-Colombia Free Fair (4).
In the right-wing forces, the Democratic Center candidate Miguel Uribe Turbay, former Secretary of the Government of Bogota, was the most voted politician of all the candidates for the Senate. His party will be the predominant force with 19 senators.
In the Lower House, the Democratic Center lost 17 seats, going from 32 representatives to 15 in these elections. Another big loser on the right was “Radical Change”, a party which barely got 11 seats in the Senate and 16 in the Lower House.
Petro has pledged to wind down Colombia’s oil industry by halting all exploration, and said the country should focus on manufacturing and agriculture instead. Economists say the policy would have a huge impact. Fossil fuels generate about half of Colombia’s export revenue.
The 61-year-old has also pledged wholesale land reform, a wealth tax on the largest 4,000 fortunes in the country and the repeal of laws from two decades ago that liberalised the labour market.