Gustavo Petro wins the Colombian presidency; Emmanuel Macron loses majority in French parliament

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Leftist Gustavo Petro cast his ballot in Bogota, the nation’s capital, where young voters voiced their support for him in his third presidential bid. File photo by Mauricio Riveros/EPA-EFE

June 19 (UPI) — Colombia has chosen a new president, while French President Emmanuel Macron lost his grip on parliament as the two nations headed to the polls on Sunday.

Gustavo Petro, a former rebel and longtime senator, was elected the country’s first left-wing leader in a race against construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez, while Macron failed to parry efforts from the far left and of the French extreme right to block a parliamentary majority.

Colombia

Petro picked up a victory, taking 50.57% of the vote with more than 97% of the vote counted on Sunday, while Hernandez garnered 47.16%, The New York Times reported.

Petro hailed the victory as a “victory for God and for the people” in a tweet Sunday.

“Today is a holiday for the people,” he wrote. “Let them celebrate the first popular victory. May so much suffering be amortized in the joy that today floods the heart of the Fatherland.”

Petro will take office in August and will face issues including rising violence, deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, lack of opportunity and threats to democracy.

He based his platform around land reform, progressive taxation, green clean energy, sustainable economic development, and state investment in public education and health care.

However, Petro’s political opponents argue that his presidency could turn Colombia into “another Venezuela” characterized, they say, by a dictatorial regime that has pushed the country into a humanitarian and economic crisis.

As he cast his vote in the country’s capital, Bogota, earlier on Sunday, young voters voiced their support for him in his third presidential bid.

“Youth are more inclined to revolution,” Ingrid Forrero, 31, told The New York Times. “To the left, towards a change.”

Hernandez voted in his hometown of Bucaramanga to chants of “Vive Rodolfo!” supporters as he entered the polling station.

The trip marked a rare public appearance for the surprise candidate who held no rallies and only agreed to a public debate with Petro after being ordered by the court.

Hernandez, a former mayor, was compared to other right -wing populists who have been successful in recent years, such as former American president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and was criticized for saying he wanted revoking the legislature and declaring a state of emergency upon his election and for voting against the peace accord in the 2016 national plebiscite.

France

After securing a victory in the presidential election, Macron’s Ensemble coalition was expected to lose dozens of seats in the French National Assembly.

Together were expected to win 235-240 seats, short of the 289 needed to maintain an outright majority in parliament and well below polls which predicted they would win 255-305 seats, the BBC reported.

Sunday races consisted mainly in runoff votes between two candidates while the Left Coalition New Ecological and Social People’s Popular Union, or Nuts, led by the far left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, found himself equally with Together in the first round last week.

NUPES was expected to win 157 to 163 seats, while the far-right National Rally was expected to dramatically expand its presence in parliament from eight seats to between 85 and 90.

Without a majority of 289 seats, Macron will need the support of other parties to push through reforms such as raising the retirement age, cutting taxes and reforming benefits.

“They didn’t think the left and the greens could unite, it would be chaos and disaster,” NUPES spokesman Ian Brossat told a rally. “But the chaos today is economic, with rising food prices. We have 10 million people in poverty.”

Vice-presidential champion Marine Le Pen was set to retain her own parliamentary seat after being beaten by Macron in the presidential race and urged voters to ensure “Macron is denied a majority in parliament”.

“The second round gives us the opportunity to send a very large group of patriotic legislators to the new National Assembly,” she said after the first round last week.

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