BOGOTA (Reuters) – Voters in Colombia’s capital Bogota elected a woman as mayor for the first time on Sunday in local and regional contests marked in some places by violence against candidates and the power of political clans.
Left-wing Claudia Lopez, a former senator and vice-presidential candidate, won about 35% of the vote for Bogota mayor, widely considered the second-most important political post in Colombia after the presidency.
Advertising herself as “incorruptible”, Lopez promised to put more police officers on the streets to improve safety, to fight child labor and teenage pregnancy and to expand educational opportunities for adults over 45.
About 36.6 million people were eligible to vote for 32 governors, more than 1,000 mayors and thousands of regional and local legislative positions. At 6 p.m. local time (2300 GMT), results showed about half of those eligible had voted.
Despite hiccups at some of the country’s 11,590 polling places – including landslides that delayed the start of voting at three locations – Sunday’s vote was the most peaceful of recent local and regional elections, the head of the national registry office said.
“They have been the most peaceful territorial elections in recent years, they have been territorial elections where Colombians have been able to vote in all polling places,” Juan Carlos Galindo told reporters shortly after voting ended at 4 P.M. local time (2100 GMT).
The outcome of other races was likely to reflect the power of political families rather than parties, analysts told Reuters ahead of the voting, especially as many candidates are backed by coalitions.
It is not unusual for disparate factions to unite behind candidates for local elections in Colombia, giving local power-brokers more sway with eventual 2022 presidential contenders to negotiate benefits for their areas.
The mayorship of the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla went to Jaime Pumarejo, backed by powerful political kingmakers, the Char family.
Nicolas Petro, son of left-wing 2018 presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, was in a distant second for the governorship of Atlantico province.
Petro’s pick for Bogota mayor came in third with around 14% of the vote, less than 1% ahead of the candidate backed by President Ivan Duque’s right-wing Democratic Center party.
During campaigning seven candidates were killed, a dozen attacked and more than 100 threatened, the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), a voting rights group, has said. Five candidates were killed in the last round of regional elections in 2015.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)