Conservative Ivan Duque was elected Colombia’s next leader on Sunday after promising to roll back a fragile peace accord that has divided the South American nation.
Mr Duque, the business friendly protégé of hardline former President Alvaro Uribe, captured almost 54 percent of the vote, putting him 12 points ahead of former leftist guerrilla Gustavo Petro in a tense runoff election that had appeared to be tightening in recent days.
In the end, the 41-year-old sailed to victory, promising to change parts of the accord with leftist rebels but not “shred it to pieces” as some of his hawkish allies had been urging.
When he takes office in August, he will be Colombia’s youngest president in more than a century.
To cries of ‘yes we can’ and a shower of silver glitter, Mr Duque was cheered by his hardcore supporters in a conference centre in central Bogota following his election victory.
“No more divisions!” he said, striking a conciliatory tone after a bitter and divisive campaign. “This election is an opportunity to go past polarization, I do not hate any Colombian.”
He was accompanied onstage by his running mate, Martha Lucia Ramirez, who will be the first female vice president in Colombia’s history.
Mr Duque took particular aim at corruption in his victory speech, which was a key issue for both candidates in the campaign.
“What we most want is for Colombia united to completely smash corruption across all the territories,” he said.
“We are going to return to our population the hope and ability to believe in our institutions. We will be the government that like never before in our country will confront this cancer.”
Mr Duque also vowed to convert Colombia into “the country of social justice and political equality.”
The new president will inherit a country still scarred by five decades of bloody armed conflict and grappling with soaring cocaine production. Former guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are struggling to reinsert themselves in civilian life in a nation where many people remain hesitant to forgive.
It was the first presidential election since the signing of the 2016 peace agreement ending Latin America’s longest-running conflict and was ultimately just as much about the divisive accord as it was deeply entrenched issues like persistent corruption.
Colombia’s peace process to end a conflict that left more than 250,000 people dead is considered largely irreversible. Most of the more than 7,000 rebels who have surrendered their weapons have started new lives as farmers, community leaders and journalists. Last year the rebels launched a new political party and will soon occupy 10 seats in congress.
But the accord remains contentious and Mr Duque pledged throughout his campaign to make changes that would deliver “peace with justice.”
“That peace we long for – that demands corrections – will have corrections, so that the victims are the centre of the process, to guarantee truth, justice and reparation,” Mr Duque said.
Through constitutional reform or by decree, he could proceed with proposals such as not allowing ex-combatants behind grave human rights abuses to take political office until they have confessed their war crimes and compensated victims.
The current agreement allows most rebels to avoid jail, a sore point for many.
“I am a victim of the FARC, I suffered violence in Antioquia,” Andres Felipe Londono, an economist, told The Telegraph. “Law and order is the most important.”
Responding to concerns Mr Duque would jeopardise the peace process, Mr Londono said the president-elect would just make “modifications”.
He added: “Old FARC commanders are today enjoying impunity and will pay for their crimes. In the peace process, victims were not represented. It’s very important to go over the accords.”
FARC called on Mr Duque to show “good sense” over his threat to rewrite the 2016 peace agreement.
“It is necessary for good sense to be imposed. What the country demands is an integral peace, which will lead us to the hoped-for reconciliation,” the FARC said in a statement after Duque’s win.
Mr Duque, who has just four years experience as a senator, will be one of the country’s youngest ever presidents. But this was of little concern to his supporters.
“For young people, their age is always something that will be held against them, but doing a job is how you learn,” said Edna Meldrano, a 32-year-old numerical analyst from Bogota. “He has the backing of a lot of people with experience.”
Celebrating with Mr Duque was a hall of fans adorned in orange and blue, the colours which have become associated with his campaign.
Through the evening, they enjoyed a party atmosphere, taking selfies and chanting, while dancing to the traditional sounds of Vallenato and Champeta, music from Colombia’s coast.
Some had travelled from across the country to see Mr Duque in his moment of victory.
Lourdes Menezes, 50, and Eddy Cruz, 51, travelled 300 miles from Cucuta, in the department of Norte de Santander. The town is at the epicentre of the ongoing Venezuelan migration crisis, which is likely to be one of Duque’s biggest foreign policy headaches.
“This is a triumph of democracy,” Ms Menezes told The Telegraph. “Our department has been completely abandoned by central government. The economy is stuck and unemployment is up but we expect total change thanks to [Duque’s party] Centro Democratico. Particularly in law and order.”
For Mr Petro, the outcome was bitter sweet. Mr Petro won a majority in only eight of 32 provinces, and the capital Bogota. But the fact that a leftist advanced to the presidential runoff is historic in Colombia, where traditionally conservative politicians have held sway.
He had energised young voters and drew millions to public plazas with his fiery speeches vowing to improve the lives of poor, disenfranchised Colombians.
And though he failed to catch Mr Duque, his more than 8 million votes marked the biggest ballot box success for a leftist presidential contender in a country where leftist politicos have long been stigmatised over fears of potential ties to guerrilla causes.
“Perhaps as time passes people will be less scared about voting for left-wing politicians,” said Jorge Gallego, a professor at Colombia’s Rosario University. “Although with this result, it’s proven that Colombia is still a right-wing country.”
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/18/ivan-duque-winscolombian-election-promise-reform-peace-accord/