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The uncertain vote of young people in the second round of the Colombian presidential election

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Spring 2021: struck by the pandemic, the country explodes at the announcement of a tax increase project by the conservative government of Ivan Duque. The middle class, young people in the lead, takes to the streets of the big cities. The movement is harshly repressed by the police with at least 44 dead.

It reveals a deep malaise in one of the most unequal societies in the world. One year later, the social problem has not been solved […]he just calmed down, analysis for AFP Danny Ramirez, from the University of Rosario. And it could resurface at any time.

On Sunday, Colombians will choose between left-wing senator Gustavo Petro, 62, and ideologically unclassifiable independent businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, 77, a self-proclaimed champion in the fight against corruption.

In Bogota, Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro greets his supporters during the first round of the presidential election on 29 May.

Photo: Getty Images/Guillermo Legaria

The ballot promises to be very close. In the home stretch, the candidates hunt for abstainers (45%) as well as the undecided (2% to 5%).

According to the pollster Cifras y Conceptosnearly half of young people did not vote in the first round on May 29, which represents a pool of nine million votes.

Distrust of institutions, dissatisfaction with the education system, unemployment: 52% of young people do not feel represented by either of the two candidates. In addition, 81% of them distrust the executive, 80% of political parties and 78% of Parliament, according to another survey dating from April.

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These new generations born in the cities, far from the armed conflict which evaded social protest for decades, encourage feminist, environmental or ethnic causes, notes Mr. Ramirez. But if they energize electoral debates, they rarely go to the polls.

Youth will for change

I feel like the same people as usual will rule again […]. It would be much better if it was someone who doesn’t have so much history with politicsconfides to AFP Sebastian Rodriguez, 22, cashier in Bogota, who will vote white … if he will vote.

Employment, education, health and violence are, however, the concerns of young people, lists David Yepes, of the Ideas for Peace Foundation, which is conducting research on the 2021 protests. There are a number of broken promises that have opened a gaping hole between young people and institutionshe worries.

According to the polls, young people identify more with Mr. Petro’s program (62%). At the head of the town hall of Bogota (2012-2015), he forged links with young people by posing as a defender of human rights, the environment and free education. He wholeheartedly supported the 2021 protests and criticized the government’s response.

His choice of an Afro-Colombian, Francia Marquez, as running mate for the vice-presidency has paid off: charismatic, she has carried a feminist, environmentalist and anti-racist discourse that resonates with young people, more than the usual dogmas of the Latin American left.

Cristina Andrade, a 25-year-old psychologist, will choose Gustavo Petro essentially because of its proposals and also because it is supported by Francia. The most important thing is the environmental question, which Rodolfo Hernandez does not have…she told AFP.

The former mayor of the city of Bucaramanga, nicknamed the old man from TikTokhowever, also knew how to approach the new generation.

He does not behave like a traditional politician. His way of being and his disruptive speech allow him to establish an easy link with young peopleexplains Fabian Mayorga, 22, coordinator of the movement Youth with Hernandez.

The independent candidate promises that he will respond to the aspirations of young people if he is elected and that the riot police will not be used brutally against people’s right to protest.

He is, however, more unpredictable in his plans, observes Mr. Ramirez. We don’t know how he would cope with a social explosion. He has a rather confrontational style […] which does not allow, as far as we have seen, dialogue or the debate of ideas.

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