Colombians go to the polls for a controversial presidential election

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BOGOTA, May 29 (Reuters) – Colombians are voting on Sunday to choose a new president from among a former rebel promising generous social programs, a center-right candidate warning of a left-wing economic model and an eccentric business mogul.

Gustavo Petro, a former left-leaning mayor of Bogota and member of the M-19 guerrilla group and current senator, is consistently leading opinion polls with around 40% support, ten points below what he would need to ensure the presidency without a second round in June.

The 62-year-old has drawn support for promises to redistribute pensions, provide free public university and tackle deep inequality. Read more

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His main opponent is Federico Gutierrez, the center-right former mayor of Medellin, who has around 25% support.

Gutierrez has emphasized his own plans for a basic income for 5 million households, economic growth of 5% per year and more efficient public spending in response to accusations that he is the ideological successor to unpopular President Ivan Duke. Read more

Gutierrez, 47, said Petro was a threat to democracy and warned that left-wing economic plans, including banning new oil and gas projects, would ruin Colombia’s economy. Read more

Construction magnate and former mayor of Bucaramanga Rodolfo Hernandez comes third in the six-man race, with around 20% support. Read more

Hernandez, who races independently, is known for his whimsical social media videos, including of him riding an electric scooter, and his anti-corruption pledges. The 77-year-old himself faces an ongoing investigation into whether he intervened in a tender for the benefit of a company his son lobbied for. He denied wrongdoing.

The country’s registrar said there was no possibility of voter fraud, after candidates repeatedly raised concerns about irregularities in March’s legislative elections, which election officials described as errors of procedure.

Polling stations will open at 8:00 a.m. local time and close at 4:00 p.m. (21:00 GMT). Officials said they expected results about four hours later.

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Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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