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  • Then mayor-elect Gustavo Petro getting the sash from acting mayor Clara Lopez during the swearing in ceremony in Bogota.

    Then mayor-elect Gustavo Petro getting the sash from acting mayor Clara Lopez during the swearing in ceremony in Bogota. | Photo: EFE

Published 3 June 2018

Clara Lopez, from "Our Party is Colombia", took a director from her former running mate Humberto de la Calle, who vowed a blank vote.

Two weeks ahead of Colombia's second round of presidential elections, the parties and their candidates that are now out of the race are playing a strong role in defining public opinion as they decide to either support the frontrunner right-wing hardliner Ivan Duque or the center-left Gustavo Petro or to cast a blank vote in protest.

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The movement led by Clara Lopez, who was running for vice president with Humberto de la Calle's campaign, said Saturday it will back the center-left Gustavo Petro against Ivan Duque, who is backed by former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe, on the second round of presidential elections to take place June 17. Uribe has been accused of being backed for decades by paramilitary groups and drug cartels.

“We're being coherent with peace, social equity and consequent with the position established during the first round: backing the alternative candidate that made it to the second round,” said Lopez in a press release issued by the “Our Party is Colombia” movement, led by her.

Lopez, former acting mayor of Bogota, distanced herself from de la Calle, who said he would cast a blank ballot as he doesn't support any of the candidates. She also called for a broad coalition aiming to convince those citizens that are thinking about abstaining from voting or casting it blank to go and vote.

Meanwhile Colombia's Liberal party, to which de la Calle belongs, has decided to back Duque for the presidency despite having significantly different views on issues relating to politics and security including the historic peace agreement with the former Marxist guerrilla group FARC.

On May 27, during the first round of the elections, the Democratic Center's candidate Duque got more than 7.5 million votes (39.14 percent), followed by Human Colombia Movement's Gustavo Petro, with 4.8 million (25.08 percent)

Meanwhile senior members in other parties and coalitions have declared their support for Petro despite reluctance from the candidates on the leadership of those parties. A leading group of lawmakers from the Green Alliance gave the party's members the freedom to either vote blank or support Petro, but to not vote for Duque.

The Green Alliance, along with the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) and the Citizen Commitment movement, make up the Colombia Coalition that had chosen the former governor of Antioquia and mayor of Medellín Sergio Fajardo as their presidential candidate. He came third in the first round with 4.5 million votes (23.73 percent).

Fajardo recently expressed his decision to cast a blank vote, as he says neither of the candidates represent what his party stands for. However, he told his followers to vote as they wish and his Citizen Commitment party is also adopting that position.

“I, Sergio Fajardo, will cast a blank vote,” said Fajardo in a statement. “During the campaign I said no several times to Duque and Petro and I didn't do it as a strategic trick. I said it because I consider none of them represents what we want for Colombia: a unified country in the middle of the differences that make it rich.”

Challenging the blank vote logic, Petro has criticized candidates promoting it and called for voting against Duque. Following Fajardo's declaration, Petro said the blank vote meant a vote for Uribe and his candidate Duque.

“The blank vote is just a vote for Uribe/Duque. This is between the corrupt machinery that took us to violence, to social injustice, to the metastasis of corruption: Hidroituango and Odebrecht; and the free citizenships that can take us to a fulfilled democracy and peace.”

The PDA, one of the parties that supported Fajardo, declared its support for Petro on Wednesday, after many of its members were already openly calling to vote for him even during the first round of the presidential elections, even though the party's rules have a strict voting policy, forcing members to vote only for their own candidates.

“The National Executive Committee officially endorses the presidential candidacy of Doctor Gustavo Petro Urrego and his vice presidential candidate, Doctor Angela Maria Robledo,” the Democratic Pole stated in an official communique after a meeting in Bogota Wednesday.

According to the statement the votes for Petro and Fajardo, which amount to 9.440.950, “represent the citizens' expression to defeat the establishment’s corrupt political machinery and client-patron relations.”

An opinion poll published Thursday by the news channel CM& shows that Duque, with 55 percent of the support, is leading the voting intention by 20 points ahead of Petro for the second round of presidential elections. Another 10 percent went to blank votes.


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