Petro, Hernandez neck and neck in Colombia presidential election

·2-min read

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's leftist former guerrilla Gustavo Petro and construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez were technically tied ahead of a second round of presidential elections, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Petro, a former M-19 rebel and mayor of Bogota, won 40.3% of votes in Sunday's first round on promises of social and economic change, including pension redistribution, free public university and robust environmental policies.

But his promises may resonate less with voters now his surprise rival is the anti-establishment Hernandez, 77, who has pledged to shrink government and use the savings to pay off student debt, cut the value added tax nearly in half to 10% and combine subsidies into one basic income.

Hernandez won 28.2% in Sunday's vote, but is now backed by former center-right candidate Federico Gutierrez, who won 23.9%, and likely many of his followers.

The survey, conducted for local media CM& by pollster Centro Nacional de Consultoria, shows the two men within the margin of error of 2.8%.

Hernandez would tally 41% of vote, while Petro would win 39%.

Some 14% of people did not respond or did not know, while 5% said they would hand in blank ballots, a common protest technique.

The peso and the Colombian stock market initially reacted positively to the news Hernandez would go to the second round and potentially beat Petro.

But the bounce may be short-lived, analysts said, because both candidates are unlikely to enact policies to lower the country's high debt level or improve trade conditions.

Hernandez, a farmer's son who says he has a $100 million fortune, is known for eccentric TikTok videos and vehement promises to fight corruption, though he himself is currently under investigation for alleged graft.

Petro, a current senator, first gained national recognition for impassioned congressional speeches decrying corruption and violence by right-wing paramilitary groups and their political allies.

The survey was conducted among 1,200 people between May 30 and 31.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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