Protest Legacy? Presidential runoff election in Colombia between two outside candidates.

Cali, Colombia

Before Jhon Hernández became a voter for the first time last month, he was a frontline protester clamoring for change. He joined tens of thousands of Colombians last year to demand stronger social programs and end a proposed tax reform as COVID-19 restrictions wreaked havoc on the country’s poor people.

This year, Hernández threw away the ski mask that had identified him as a protester and organized a voter registration instead, believing the way forward is not through bigger protests, but smarter voting.

“Change depends on our vote,” said the community leader, who cast his vote for the first time in this year’s presidential election, despite running for office for the past 15 years.

Why we wrote this

Colombians marched in massive anti-government protests in 2021. Their unmet demands for better employment, health care and education opportunities are driving record voters to elect a new outsider president.

He is not alone. More Colombians voted in last month’s first election than in any other vote in the past 20 years largely stimulated by the historic street protests. Frustration over the government’s out-of-control policy proposals, combined with a growing desire for change, have laid the groundwork for the major political shift underway in this weekend’s presidential election.

For decades Colombia has been ruled by an elite group of established politicians. But this weekend, two candidates eschewing the status quo will face each other in what is expected to be a historically close runoff election. Both candidates are seen as leaning to the left – even if they are far from the traditional left – to meet protesters’ demands.