STORY: A former leftist guerrilla won 40% of votes in Colombia’s first round of elections on Sunday with promises of change.
Gustavo Petro fell short of the 50% needed for an outright victory.
But he may still become the country’s first leftist president, and was upbeat in his message to supporters afterwards.
“What is not in dispute today is change. President Ivan Duque and the political parties that are his allies have been defeated. I believe that the vote in Colombia sends a message to the world that an era is ending.”
Petro heads to a second round of voting in June where he will face a surprise contender.
That’s businessman Rodolofo Hernandez, who rose quickly in the last few weeks, securing second place in the polls at nearly 30% of votes.
Hernandez got a late boost thanks to a colorful campaign on social media like TikTok.
"Today signifies victory for a country that does not want to continue one more day with the same men and women that have led us to the painful situation we are in today."
Elections come amid hard times in Colombia.
About half the population lives in poverty.
Petro, who is also a former mayor of Bogota, has appealed to poor and working class Colombians with ideas like free public university and social programs funded by taxes on the rich.
He also seeks peace with former and current leftist rebel groups like the FARC and ELN.
His challenger is also a former mayor.
Hernandez has run on promises to govern frugally and fight corruption, although he himself is under investigation for graft dating back to his time as mayor.
Hernandez has denied the accusations.
Surveys show he still lags the frontrunner by a few points ahead of their run-off on June 19th.