‘Lesser of two evils’: Uncertainty reigns as Colombia votes | Elections News

Colombia’s election stations opened for voting in a presidential race stuffed with uncertainty as former insurgent Gustavo Petro and millionaire businessman Rodolfo Hernandez compete for energy in a rustic saddled with widespread poverty, violence and different woes.

Abstention is predicted to be excessive on Sunday as voters face a stark selection between electing their first-ever left-wing president or a maverick outsider dubbed the Colombian Donald Trump.

In Bogota, outgoing President Ivan Duque opened voting for Colombia’s 39 million voters at 8am (13:00 GMT). Polls will shut at 4pm with early outcomes anticipated a few hours after that.

Hernandez was among the many early voters within the northern metropolis of Bucaramanga, the place he was mayor from 2016 to 2019.

It has been a tense marketing campaign, with loss of life threats in opposition to a number of candidates forward of the primary spherical final month, when Colombia’s conventional conservative and liberal powers had been dealt a chastening defeat.

“These are the tightest elections within the nation’s latest historical past,” mentioned the Sunday version of the El Tiempo day by day.

There are fears a decent outcome might spark post-election violence and 320,000 police and army have been deployed to make sure safety.

Michael Shifter, from the Inter-American Dialogue think-tank, mentioned voters “try to determine who’s the lesser of two evils”.

The successor to unpopular conservative Duque should cope with a rustic in disaster, reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, recession, a spike in drug-trafficking-related violence and deep-rooted anger on the political institution.

Virtually 40 p.c of the nation lives in poverty whereas 11 p.c are unemployed.

Colombians’ anger spilled over into mass anti-government protests in April 2021 that had been controversially met by a heavy-handed response from the safety forces.

Opinion polls within the lead-up to the election have been inconclusive, though abstention is predicted to be 45 p.c with as much as one other 5 p.c undecided.

‘Comprehensible hysteria’

Petro comfortably topped the primary spherical of voting with 40 p.c, 12 factors forward of Hernandez.

Nevertheless, Petro’s previous as a radical leftist city fighter within the Eighties – throughout which period he spent two years in jail on arms fees – has left many Colombians fearful.

He has been in politics since his M-19 group made peace with the state in 1990 and fashioned a political social gathering.

Some say the previous mayor of Bogota would flip Colombia into one other authoritarian populist socialist state like neighbouring Venezuela.

Petro, 62, says the nation wants social justice to construct peace after a six-decade multi-faceted battle involving leftist rebels, the state, right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartels.

Petro, who’s in style with many younger individuals, named environmentalist feminist Francia Marquez, 40, as his working mate.

His might grow to be the newest leftist political victory in Latin America fuelled by voters’ want for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras elected leftist presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is main the polls for this yr’s presidential election.

‘Dialogue and agreements wanted’

Only a few months in the past, Hernandez, 77, was a digital unknown outdoors of Bucaramanga. His austere marketing campaign, waged totally on TikTok and different social media platforms, was self-financed.

However his unconventional insurance policies and a collection of gaffes, not least when he seemingly mistook Adolf Hitler for Albert Einstein in a radio interview, have caught consideration.

Though he additionally named a lady, tutorial Marelen Castillo, 53, as his working mate, he lately mentioned a lady’s place was within the residence.

However it’s his lack of political expertise or a programme that worries many.

“As a businessman he’s used to resolving conflicts in a direct and fast means, however the train of governance requires dialogue, agreements, [and] lengthy conferences to search out widespread floor,” mentioned Patricia Ines Munoz, an professional on the Pontifical Javerian College.

That’s one thing he should do if elected, given he has nearly no illustration in congress.

What has attracted voters to Hernandez has been his anti-corruption stance – though he faces a corruption investigation of his personal from his mayorship.

“Between theft, luxurious and waste, a billion per week disappears, we’ll put an finish to that from day one,” he mentioned.

Silvia Otero Bahamón, a political science professor on the College of Rosario, mentioned though each candidates are populists who “have an ideology based mostly on the division between the corrupt elite and the individuals”, every sees their combat in opposition to the institution otherwise.

“Petro pertains to the poor, the ethnic and cultural minorities of probably the most peripheral areas of the nation,” Otero mentioned, whereas Hernández’s supporters are “extra ethereal; they’re the individuals who have been let down by politicking and corruption. It’s a looser neighborhood, which the candidate reaches instantly through social networks.”

UK, NATO warn of long Ukraine war as Zelenskyy visits front lines | Russia-Ukraine war News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary Normal Jens Stoltenberg have warned Western allies to arrange for the lengthy haul in Ukraine, as Russian forces intensified their assault on Ukrainian positions within the east of the nation.

The separate warnings from Johnson and Stoltenberg on Saturday got here as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited entrance traces within the southern areas of Mykolaiv and Odesa, the place he declared that Ukrainians “will certainly” win towards invading Russian troops.

Johnson, writing in The Sunday Occasions newspaper, referred to as for sustained help for Ukraine, saying the nation’s overseas backers ought to maintain their nerve to make sure it has “the strategic endurance to outlive and finally prevail”.

“Time is now the important issue,” the British chief wrote within the 1,000-word article posted on-line on Saturday evening.

“Every little thing will rely on whether or not Ukraine can strengthen its potential to defend its soil sooner than Russia can renew its capability to assault. Our job is to enlist time on Ukraine’s facet.”

To assist, he outlined a four-point plan for “fixed funding and technical assist”, ranges of which ought to be maintained for “years to return” and doubtlessly be elevated. And financial considerations – amid international meals and vitality crises made worse by the battle – mustn’t result in a rushed settlement in Ukraine, stated Johnson, who’s battling inflation at 40-year highs at house and spiralling home gasoline costs.

He added that permitting Russian President Vladimir Putin to maintain territory in Ukraine wouldn’t result in a extra peaceable world.

“Such a travesty could be the best victory for aggression in Europe because the Second World Warfare,” he stated.

Stoltenberg additionally appealed for continued help for Ukraine, telling Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the provision of state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would enhance the possibility of liberating the japanese Donbas area from Russian management.

“We should put together for the truth that it may take years. We should not let up in supporting Ukraine,” he stated. “Even when the prices are excessive, not just for navy help, additionally due to rising vitality and meals costs.”

Setback in Metolkine

On Ukraine’s battlefields, the Ukrainian navy reported intensified Russian assaults on its positions within the japanese cities of Kharkiv, Izyum, and Severodonetsk.

It stated Severodonetsk, a major goal in Moscow’s offensive to grab full management of the japanese area of Luhansk within the Donbas area, was once more below heavy artillery and rocket hearth, however stated that the Russian push to determine full management over town stays “unsuccessful”.

Nevertheless, it admitted that its forces had suffered a navy setback within the close by settlement of Metolkine.

“Because of artillery hearth and an assault, the enemy has partial success within the village of Metolkine, attempting to achieve a foothold,” it stated in a Fb submit late on Saturday.

Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian-appointed governor of Luhansk, referred in a separate on-line submit to “powerful battles” in Metolkine, whereas Russia’s Tass information company, citing a supply working for Russian-backed separatists, stated many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Metolkine.

To the northwest, a number of Russian missiles hit a gasworks within the Izyum district, and Russian rockets rained down on a suburb of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest metropolis, hitting a municipal constructing and beginning a fireplace in a block of flats however inflicting no casualties, Ukrainian authorities stated.

Al Jazeera couldn’t independently verify the battlefield accounts.

Southern entrance traces

In the meantime, Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president whose defiance has impressed his countrymen and received him international respect, stated in a Telegram submit on Saturday that he had visited troopers on the southern entrance line within the Mykolaiv area, about 550 km (340 miles) south of the capital, Kyiv.

Mykolaiv is a key goal for Russia because it lies on the way in which to the strategic Black Sea port of Odesa. It’s about 100 kilometres (62 miles) northwest of Kherson, which fell to Russia within the first weeks of the conflict.

“Our courageous women and men. Every one in every of them is working flat out,” Zelenskyy stated. “We will certainly maintain out! We will certainly win!”

A video confirmed the Ukrainian president in his trademark khaki t-shirt handing out medals and posing for selfies with servicemen.

Zelenskyy’s workplace stated he had additionally visited Nationwide Guard positions within the Odesa area.

“It is necessary that you’re alive. So long as you reside there’s a sturdy Ukrainian wall that protects our nation,” Zelenskyy advised troopers there.

“I need to thanks from the individuals of Ukraine, from our state for the nice work you might be doing, in your impeccable service.”

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on Saturday
Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated he had visited troopers on the southern entrance line within the Mykolaiv area, about 550 km (340 miles) south of the capital, Kyiv [Office of Ukraine’s president via AP]

Zelenskyy has remained principally in Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine, though in latest weeks he has made unannounced visits to Kharkiv, and two japanese cities near the place battles are being fought.

One among Putin’s said targets when he ordered his troops into Ukraine was to halt the eastward growth of the NATO navy alliance and maintain Moscow’s southern neighbour exterior of the West’s sphere of affect.

However the conflict, which has killed hundreds of individuals, turned cities into rubble and despatched thousands and thousands fleeing, has had the alternative impact – convincing Finland and Sweden to hunt to hitch NATO – and serving to to pave the way in which for Ukraine’s membership within the European Union.

The European Fee on Friday advisable that Ukraine be granted EU candidate standing – one thing that the bloc’s members are anticipated to endorse at a summit this week.

Such a transfer would put Ukraine on track to grasp an aspiration seen as out of attain earlier than Russia’s February 24 invasion, even when precise membership may take years.