Defeated Centrist Candidate Sergio Fajardo Won’t Endorse Either of His Rivals in Second Round of Presidential Election
Leftist Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro was dealt a severe blow this week when two of his former rivals said he will not endorse him for the presidency.
Centrist and peace process supporter Sergio Fajardo and left-leaning Humberto de la Calle both announced that they would submit a “voto en blanco” at the ballot box on June 17, meaning that they will submit a blank ballot rather than vote for either candidate.
While rightwing candidate Iván Duque was unlikely to receive the support of his rivals, Petro has a lot of ground to make up and would have benefited from an endorsement.
Photo: While former Medellín mayor Sergio Fajardo does not have “king-making” sway in Colombia, his decision to not support Gustavo Petro in the June 17 election is a setback for the leftist candidate. (Photo Credit: Inter-American Dialogue)
The first round of the election was held on May 27. But because no candidate earned a 50% majority, as mandated by Colombian law to avoid a runoff, the top two vote-getters move on to vie head-to-head in the second round.
Fajardo narrowly missed out on making the second round. While Duque easily came in first — his 7,569,693 votes were 39.14% of the total cast — Fajardo’s 4,589,696 votes were just 261,558 fewer than the 4,851,254 received by second-place finisher Petro.
Both of the remaining candidates will spend their next few weeks on the campaign trail trying to convince Fajardo voters to pick them. But without an endorsement from the centrist former Medellín mayor, Petro is likely to find it difficult to make up the wide gap with Duque, the “Urbista” candidate of the Democratic Center party and its ideological leader former President Álvaro Uribe.
While the Fajardo support was likely to splinter to some degree regardless of his endorsement (and many would have logged a “voto en blanco” anyway) Petro is more reliant on it.
In addition to beating Petro by more than 2.7 million votes, Duque can likely count on much wider support among the more than 1.4 million who voted for right-leaning former vice president Germán Vargas Lleras in the first round.
De la Calle, a former vice president who lead Colombia’s peace negotiations in Cuba that led to historic accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, also announced that he will “voto en blanco” and not endorse either of the remaining candidates. He finished fifth in the first round, albeit with only 399,180 votes.
Though the losing candidates themselves do carry weight, various political parties within the country whose candidates of choice were ousted have picked sides for the second round.
The Alternative Democratic Pole party, which supported Fajardo in round one, has announced its support for Petro. The Liberal Party, who supported De la Calle in the first round and is one of two traditional parties in the country, has thrown its hat in for Duque.
The Party of the U, which is led by President Juan Manuel Santos, announced that it will not formally support either of the remaining candidates. It had supported Vargas Lleras in the first round.
The Duque campaign and Democratic Center party have also been in coalition-building discussions this week about forming a larger alliance in Congress with the right-leaning Radical Change party, which has supported Vargas Lleras.
If successful, this could potentially help to a victorious Duque presidential administration build a majority in the legislature as he attempts to carry out campaign promises.