“Today, the country of politicking and corruption lost,” Rodolfo Hernandez, the anti-establishment right-wing candidate, said in a video message to his supporters following the results of the first round of an election in May that placed him second behind Gustavo Petro. .
Mr. Hernandez’s surprise victory in second place underscored the fervor of protest against the incumbent that has gripped the country and made it impossible to elect anyone who is not represented by the country’s leading conservative leaders.
In the months leading up to the election, most of the country’s most powerful conservative politicians and much of the business community backed Federico Gutierrez, the candidate of the conservative establishment.
But just minutes after Mr. Hernandez defeated Mr. Gutierrez, key members of the dominant political class began to support him in the second round of the election.
“The triumph of Rodolfo is a triumph over the establishment,” said Maria Fernanda Cabal, a powerful right-wing senator whose husband heads a powerful livestock association. said on Twitter. “The country needs change, not the suicide that Petro proposes, but power, order and prosperity.”
Once it became clear that Mr. Hernandez was in second place, Mr. Gutiérrez said he would support him, a move that would likely give most of Mr. Gutiérrez’s five million votes to Mr. Hernandez.
In a business complex in Bogotá, surrounded by supporters, Mr. Gutiérrez called his decision an attempt to “defend democracy and defend freedom.”
“We don’t want to lose the country,” he said.
Mr. Gutierrez never expected to support Mr. Petro, an ideological opponent. But it was unclear whether he would support Mr. Hernandez.
The announcement poses a major problem for Mr. Petro, who some political analysts believe has hit his ceiling in terms of voters, and could effectively hand over the presidency to Mr. Hernandez, a wildcard candidate who was largely unknown. in most of Colombia. just a few months ago.
Megan Janetsky provided a report from Bogota.