World News

Social conservative Ivan Duque wins Colombia's presidency, leftist opponent concedes

Posted June 17, 2018 11:24 a.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2018 5:06 a.m. EDT

— Social conservative Ivan Duque won Colombia's presidency Sunday, with his opponent conceding defeat and Duque's running mate becoming the first woman ever elected to the nation's vice presidency.

With 100% of votes counted, Duque, a member of the Democratic Center party, received almost 54% of the ballots, according to Colombia's National Civil Registry. Leftist candidate and former mayor of Bogota Gustavo Petro, got about 41% of the votes.

More than 50% of the country's 36 million eligible voters went to the polls Sunday for the second round of elections.

During his acceptance speech in Bogota, Duque pledged to "invest all my energy in bringing our country together. No more division. We want a country with everyone and for everyone."

Petro gave a concession speech also in Bogota, saying he accepted Duque's victory but declared, "We are the opposition to the new government he's going to establish.

"Obviously, there is some sadness," Petro said. "To be honest, I don't feel defeated. We are so used to not being in power... we're not dying simply because it didn't happen this time."

The lead-up to the election left Colombians polarized on issues like unemployment, the economy and the peace deal led by current President Juan Manuel Santos, that ended more than 50 years of civil war with the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, rebel group.

Duque, who had been openly opposed to the peace agreement, said during his acceptance speech that the deal required "some corrections" in order for "the victims to be at the center of process and guarantee truth, justice, reparation and no repetition."

The FARC, which has now become a political party, issued a statement after the elections where it credited the peace agreement for the "lack of violent acts" during the presidential election.

"During this electoral process, which ended Sunday, something without precedent in the recent history of our country occurred: the absence of violent acts, both today and during the previous round of elections last May," the statement said.

The FARC also expressed its "will" to meet with the president-elect in order to present "its point of view regarding the implementation of the peace process."

Santos said on Twitter on Sunday that he called Duque to congratulate him and "give him best wishes."

"I offered him total collaboration of the government to make an ordered and peaceful transition," the tweet read.

Duque, 41, thanked Santos on Twitter saying: "We are ready to start joint work for the benefit of all Colombians."

With the victory Sunday, Duque's running mate, Maria Lucia Ramirez, becomes the first woman ever elected to the vice presidency.

Duque served as a senator for four years and as an adviser to the Finance Ministry and the Inter-American Development Bank. He also is a professor and writer who co-authored the book "The Orange Economy."

Former President Alvaro Uribe said he voted for Duque "because they are a guarantee of growth and social inclusion ... that Colombia may not fall in the destructive socialism. I have voted with my soul wishing that the sun will shine on a new born democracy of our sister Venezuela."

Duque's victory came after a May 27 presidential election when no candidate won 50% of the vote. At the time, initial results showed Duque led with 39% of votes. In second place was Petro with 25%, closely trailed by centrist Sergio Fajardo.

Six candidates were vying to fill the seat left by departing Santos, who was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the long-running civil war between his government and guerillas from FARC.

Under the deal, the rebels agreed to lay down their arms, exit the jungle and pursue their aims via politics rather than guerrilla warfare.