Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
Elections 2022

Meet the Candidates: Colombia

Presidential candidates are poised to channel voter unrest in the 2022 elections.

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During a time of great national discontent, Colombians will head to the polls in 2022 to elect a new president and their representatives in Congress. Legislative elections are scheduled for March 13. The first round of the presidential election will be held on May 29. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the two leading candidates will compete in a runoff on June 19.

This survey includes only candidates who were polling at 4% and above as of October, according to a poll from the Centro Nacional de Consultoría (CNC) for Semana. We will occasionally update this page to reflect developments in the campaigns, including other candidates who rise in polls. AQ also asked a dozen nonpartisan experts on Colombia to help us identify where each candidate stands on two spectrums: left wing versus right wing, and nationalist versus globalist. The results are mapped on the charts below. We’ve published the average response, with a caveat: Platforms evolve, and so do candidates.

Sergio Fajardo | Juan Manuel Galán | Rodolfo Hernández | Gustavo Petro

Sergio
Fajardo

65, former governor

Citizens’ Commitment

“We have to run two campaigns, one for the presidency and the other to show that we are conducting ourselves well.”

HOW HE GOT HERE

This is Fajardo’s third presidential bid. A former mathematics professor and newspaper columnist, Fajardo gained popularity and international recognition for reducing violence and improving infrastructure as the mayor of Medellín from 2003 to 2007. He was the governor of Antioquia from 2012 to 2015 and barely missed the runoff in the 2018 presidential election, as Gustavo Petro beat him for second place by a margin of 1.3% of total votes cast.

WHY HE MIGHT WIN

Known for his ability to work across Colombia’s deep ideological divides, Fajardo is a moderate politician who has a good record on security and economic development. With strong name recognition, especially in the country’s major urban areas, Fajardo could secure the nomination of the Coalition of Hope, a centrist group that plans to hold a primary next March.

WHY HE MIGHT LOSE

There is a crowded field of moderate candidates, and some see Fajardo as too vague in his proposals and too much of a name from the past. He has faced calls to drop out of the race amid investigations from the offices of the attorney general and the comptroller into alleged mismanagement while he was governor of Antioquia. Fajardo has stated that he acted correctly.

WHO SUPPORTS HIM

Fajardo’s support base is concentrated in the department of Antioquia and its capital Medellín, as well as other urban areas. He stands to attract voters seeking change but not willing to support more radical figures.

WHAT HE WOULD DO

Fajardo has vowed to fight youth unemployment, improve public security, and combat corruption. He has continued his focus on education with proposed reforms such as introducing free public university for all and returning to in-person teaching to address the pandemic’s effects on students.

IDEOLOGY

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Juan Manuel
Galán

49, former senator

New Liberalism

“We should persevere in the ideals that my father constructed for a whole generation of Colombians.”

HOW HE GOT HERE

Galán is the son of former journalist and presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, who was assassinated in 1989. In the late 1990s, Galán joined former President Andrés Pastrana’s government as a youth vice minister and briefly held a diplomatic post in London during the first term of the Álvaro Uribe administration. In 2005 he resigned from that position to run for the Senate, where he served three consecutive terms through 2018.

WHY HE MIGHT WIN

Galán could appeal to voters seeking a moderate option but also a younger face with some new ideas. He is now part of the New Liberalism party, a dissident offshoot of the Liberal Party that his father founded in 1979 to reject the narcopolitics of the time and promote the decentralization of power. Galán has stated that the party will continue fighting corruption and supporting social justice and equal rights.

WHY HE MIGHT LOSE

Galán lacks executive experience compared to other candidates. He is also not as well-known at the national level – the October CNC-Semana survey found that he has 62% name recognition, compared to Petro’s 95% and Fajardo’s 81%. Galán will compete against other centrists in the Coalition of Hope to clinch its presidential nomination next March.

WHO SUPPORTS HIM

Galán has a moderate, urban support base, especially in his hometown of Bogotá.

WHAT HE WOULD DO

He is in favor of decriminalizing abortion and has called for structural tax reforms. Galán has stated he would shut down judicial agencies he has described as ineffective and replace them with a “Special Anti-Corruption Jurisdiction”. A vocal critic of Colombia’s war on drugs, Galán helped push through a 2016 law that legalized medical marijuana, and in June he proposed legalizing all drugs through state regulation.

IDEOLOGY

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Rodolfo
Hernández

76, former mayor

Independent

“Don’t lie, don’t steal, and don’t betray.”

HOW HE GOT HERE

A civil engineer and businessman who specialized in housing construction, Hernández is running for the presidency for the first time. During his 2016-2019 term as the mayor of Bucaramanga, he faced two temporary suspensions, one for hitting a city councilor and another for allegedly attempting to influence voters during an election. Hernández resigned after receiving his second suspension near the end of his term. He has said that he is self-financing his campaign, and is running with the support of the League of Anti-Corruption Leaders, a movement that he created.

WHY HE MIGHT WIN

Hernández’s anti-corruption message could have broad appeal. Though the attorney general’s office is investigating scandals allegedly involving Hernández, his populist, outsider image has gained traction in recent opinion polls.

WHY HE MIGHT LOSE

Some see Hernández as a fringe personality rather than as a serious contender. In a 2016 radio interview he said he was a follower of Adolf Hitler, but he later apologized, saying he had confused the dictator with Albert Einstein. One leaked audio message recorded Hernández threatening to shoot a client, while another recording captured Hernández allegedly trading the League’s support for House candidates for payments and 10% salary cuts if they were elected.

WHO SUPPORTS HIM

Hernández, who has rejected the labels of center, left and right, is targeting the anti-corruption vote. His support base is likely strongest in Santander department in northern Colombia.

WHAT HE WOULD DO

Hernández has focused his campaign on fighting graft, which he has described as one of Colombia’s main problems, along with wasteful government spending. He is in favor of reducing VAT to 10% and has proposed eliminating that tax on food. Hernández has made xenophobic comments about Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, and has promised that he would re-establish relations with Venezuela on day one of his administration.

IDEOLOGY

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Gustavo
Petro

61, senator

Humane Colombia

“The necessities of Colombian society are not based on building socialism, but on building democracy and peace – period.”

HOW HE GOT HERE

Petro is an economist by training and a former M-19 guerrilla who later promoted the group’s disarmament. He has served two terms in the lower house of Congress and one in the Senate. Petro was the mayor of Bogotá from 2012 to 2015. He received 41% of the votes in the runoff of the 2018 presidential election.

WHY HE MIGHT WIN

Petro’s leftist and anti-establishment stances could resonate with voters seeking major change following the pandemic, an economic slump and an unpopular right-wing administration. His second-place finish in 2018 secured him a seat in the Senate, where he has positioned himself as a vocal leader of the opposition. Petro has consistently led in most opinion polls.

WHY HE MIGHT LOSE

Petro’s more radical policy suggestions might alienate voters if he faces off against a centrist in the second round. Despite distancing himself from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, Petro continues to face suspicions from conservatives that he would emulate Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez.

WHO SUPPORTS HIM

The young, politically active electorate in universities and big cities make up much of Petro’s base. His proposed redistributive social policies could appeal to Colombia’s lower-income communities.

WHAT HE WOULD DO

Petro has said that a continuation of Colombia’s neoliberalism will eventually “destroy the country” and has proposed a tax increase on the 4,000 wealthiest Colombians. He plans to halt new oil exploration in an effort to eventually wean the country off of extractive industries and transition away from fossil fuels. Petro has also stated he would support putting President Iván Duque on trial for the violence committed by security forces during the 2021 protests.

IDEOLOGY

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Tags: Colombia, Colombia Presidential Election, Elections 2022
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