Bogota, Colombia – Simply days earlier than one in every of Colombia’s most consequential presidential elections in many years, the nation is on edge.
A whole bunch of hundreds of eligible voters are nonetheless not sure who they are going to forged their ballots for on Sunday, when left-wing former insurgent group member Gustavo Petro takes on populist former mayor Rodolfo Hernandez.
At Paloquemado central market within the capital Bogota, 42-year-old Maria Arboleda, who sells fruit and greens at her stall, was amongst those that stay on the fence.
Like a majority of Colombians, she mentioned she needs change however is not sure about who may higher present it. Her predominant worries are rising inflation, discovering a great job for her son, and rising crime within the metropolis.
“I’m intrigued by what Petro says however I’m frightened about voting for an ex-guerrilla. I like the truth that Rodolfo [Hernandez] just isn’t a politician, however among the issues he says additionally fear me and I don’t know who he’ll govern with.”
The Colombian presidential runoff on June 19 comes after an election cycle marked by demise threats towards candidates, scandals and preemptive accusations of fraud. Each contenders are promising radical change from the established order and are in a useless warmth, in line with current polls.
A victory for Petro, a former insurgent with the M-19 armed group, would characterize a pointy left flip after many years of conservative rule, and the primary time a left-wing chief would govern the nation in its historical past.
For a lot of, a win by Hernandez represents a fair greater soar into the void.
An unfiltered populist businessman, he’s promising to “drain the swamp” of corrupt politicians, a pledge that brings to thoughts different profitable political candidates like Donald Trump in america, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and Nayib Bukele in El Salvador.
Both of them will inherit a deeply divided nation, steeped in discontent and desperately demanding change and reforms.
The candidates modified their technique within the weeks main as much as the runoff.
Hernandez, the self-declared king of Tik-Tok, has prevented conventional marketing campaign occasions and centered on his quirky and profitable on-line presence. He gathered 28 p.c of the vote within the first spherical to complete in second – and easily not being Petro is predicted to garner him a majority of conservative votes.
However in addition to repeating his slogan, “don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t betray”, like a mantra, he has largely saved out of sight within the remaining stretch of the marketing campaign.
He prevented debates with Petro, as an alternative placing ahead his proposals on Twitter, at instances even in contradiction along with his electoral programme. And, as an alternative of conventional interviews, he largely relied on Fb stay.
However the quick runoff marketing campaign has change into more and more lengthy for Hernandez. Polls present he has been shedding a part of his assist as voters found extra about him. He has been indicted on corruption costs, has repeatedly made sexist feedback, and confirmed a lack of awareness of how the federal government works.
Angel Beccassino, his predominant marketing campaign strategist, mentioned they have been victims of steady assaults from Petro’s camp.
“Petro’s marketing campaign has centered on attacking Rodolfo,” Beccassino informed Al Jazeera. “Our determination has been to proceed with livestreamed conversations with totally different sectors of society as an alternative of doing interviews or debates.”
Petro additionally modified his marketing campaign. He deserted the huge crowds and rallies that characterised earlier weeks in change for intimate visits to poor households, farmers and manufacturing unit employees, particularly within the areas the place Hernandez received a majority of votes.
His marketing campaign referred to as it “micro-politics”.
“It’s a a lot quieter marketing campaign,” mentioned Petro’s chief debate strategist, Alfonso Prada. “A marketing campaign the place Petro listens to the folks very intently, speaking to a fisherman, to a small businessman, an entrepreneur, to a miner in his mine – and thru it, he transmits many messages to Colombia.”
‘A disservice to the voters’
Sergio Guzman, a political analyst and director of Bogota-based Colombia Threat Evaluation, mentioned the runoff marketing campaign took a “nasty” flip, as political discourse and public debate crumbled in favour of partisan assaults.
“Issues simply obtained nasty,” he informed Al Jazeera. “There’s been an erosion of the general public debate, there’s been an erosion of communications, and I believe the media performed an essential position on this. Social media additionally performed an enormous position in manipulation and disinformation, however all of them – the candidates included – are doing a disservice to the voters.”
Final week, right-wing weekly Semana started publishing edited recordings of Petro’s marketing campaign conferences. Within the movies, his strategists focus on find out how to assault rivals and do harm management.
Hernandez was fast to explain the movies as proof that Petro and the folks round him are a prison gang, whereas the left-wing chief’s marketing campaign denounced the leak as nothing wanting Watergate, referring to the Nineteen Seventies spying scandal involving former US President Richard Nixon.
Petro referred to as on Semana to publish the movies of their entirety and promised to finish the marketing campaign if any criminality was revealed.
“No one needs to see how the sausage is made, however when you see it you possibly can’t unsee it,” Guzman mentioned. “The issue is Petro has tried to brandish his character for a clear marketing campaign, no pretend information, no disinformation. And the movies recommend there’s an underbelly to that.”
In such a hyper-charged environment heading into Sunday’s vote, analysts have additionally questioned whether or not both candidate will name for a recount within the case of a really shut consequence.
Petro’s marketing campaign, particularly, has insisted on the danger of electoral fraud, saying that Colombian electoral authorities haven’t been impartial within the race. And any trace of wrongdoing may simply spark a return of avenue protests.