Iván Duque, the rightwing candidate and man picked by former President Álvaro Uribe to run, will be the next president of Colombia.
He won convincingly in a second-round run off election today over leftwing candidate Gustavo Petro, a controversial former M-19 guerrilla member and former Bogotá mayor whose populist ideas were unable to gain him a coalition of political support.
Photo: Iván Duque, the new president of Colombia, outlined his economic agenda recently in a televised interview with Bloomberg.
With more than 99% of the votes counted, the Bogotá-born Iván Duque held a 54.0% to 41.8% lead over Petro. The vote count stood at 10.3 million to 8.0 million for the victorious Democratic Center candidate who will assume the presidency from President Juan Manuel Santos in August.
In a polarized election that was fiercely debated all year long, more than 4.2% of the those who voted cast blank ballots — “voto en blanco” — and preferred to vote for neither candidate. In all, there were more than 806,000 “votos en blanco” out of the more than 19 million cast.
The election results are historic in that Duque’s running mate, Marta Lucía Ramírez, will become the first woman to serve as vice president of Colombia. Duque himself, at just 41 years old, will also be the youngest president in more than 100 years.
The outcome will also have a significant impact on the peace process that the government signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016.
While a key court decision last year ruled that aspects of the historic accord cannot be altered for at least a decade, the 41-year-old Duque has pledged to make major alterations.
Though it remains to be seen exactly what the new president can do to dismantle the agreement, implementation of the deal has continued to lag even under a government more supportive of the process. Simply failing to push implementation forward would represent a major disruption, and changes to its justice and political participation provisions, among other key aspects, could have severe effects on the now-demobilized guerrilla group’s actions going forward.
While no political party controls a majority in Congress, Duque’s Democratic Center party has been working to forge a coalition with the other right-leaning parties. Gaining wide support in the legislative branch could offer Duque wide latitude to carry out his agenda.
Many key economic organizations, labor unions, and private sector stakeholders had publicly offered their support for Iván Duque before today’s election. While he represents potential disruption to the peace process, many more business-minded Colombian were concerned that the uncertainty of the leftist policies of Petro would negatively affect the country’s economic recovery.
The nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by just 1.8% in 2017, the lowest figure since the height of the global recession in 2009. This followed the disappointing 2.0% growth in 2016.
Between the end of the global crisis and the major drop in oil prices a few years later, the Colombian economy grew by at least 4.0% each year from 2010 to 2014, hitting a high during this stretch of 6.6% in 2011.
Duque has pledged to cut the corporate tax rate below 30%, something he told Bloomberg in an interview would make Colombia more competitive “as we’ve seen other countries in Latin America.”
He added that cutting this tax rate would help “get the economy and investment reactivated and be able to generate the type of employment that we need and also put the target of getting the economic growing above 5% of GDP.”
While many in the private sector are happy with the outcome, critics have also highlighted Duque’s inexperience. While he was elected to serve a first term in the Colombian senate in 2014, his youth and lack of executive experience in any form of government — or even at any organization in the country — has been called a red flag by the opposition.
Before becoming a protege to Uribe and running for his Senate seat in 2014, Iván Duque, who holds a law degree from Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá, was a relative unknown in Colombia who had spent more than a decade previously working for the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.
In the late 1990s, he also began a stretch serving as an advisor in the Colombian Ministry of Finance and Public Credit under then-President Andrés Pastrana.
This article has been updated with additional information following the final election results.