Leftist candidate Gustavo Petro received only 40% of the vote, popular Bucaramanga former mayor Rodolfo Hernandez 28% and right-wing candidate Federico “Fico” Guterres 23%.
Petro and Hernandez are now expected to face each other in the June 19 runoff election.
Voting closed late Sunday without any major reports of violence or unrest.
“We have one of the oldest democracies in this hemisphere. We have one of the strongest democracies and it is getting stronger because every four years we make an orderly transformation,” said outgoing President Evan Duck on Sunday.
The vote took place at one of the most tumultuous times in Colombia’s modern history, with the country plagued by the Covid-19 epidemic, social unrest and the deteriorating security situation.
Duke’s own approval ratings are currently at a low point, his tenure being driven by his administration’s police conduct, inequality and clashes between organized criminal groups.
For the first time in the country’s history, popular dissent has left the Left in the eyes of the presidency. Preliminary results, however, represent a blow to 62-year-old Petro – a former guerrilla fighter and mayor of Bogot – – who was widely considered a leading candidate.
If elected next month, Petro will be Colombia’s first leftist leader; His running mate Francia Marquez will also be the first Afro-Colombian to hold executive power. Petro has proposed a radical change in the country’s economy to combat one of the highest rates of inequality in the world.
Meanwhile, Hernandez, 77, has appealed to moderate voters through a unique social-media campaign. The self-proclaimed “king of ticks” refused to take part in several television debates and gave a few interviews to foreign outlets – although he appeared on CNN, wearing his pajamas, saying he was a “man of the people”.
CNN’s Stefano Pozebon reports from Bogota and Michelle Village from Atlanta.