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Petro wins Colombian presidency; Macron loses French parliament majority

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Leftist Gustavo Petro cast his vote in Bogota, the nation's capitol, where young voters expressed their support for him in his third presidential bid. File Photo by Mauricio Riveros/EPA-EFE
Leftist Gustavo Petro cast his vote in Bogota, the nation's capitol, where young voters expressed their support for him in his third presidential bid. File Photo by Mauricio Riveros/EPA-EFE

June 19 (UPI) -- Colombian selected a new president, while French President Emmanuel Macron lost his grasp on parliament as both nations took to the polls Sunday.

Gustavo Petro, a former rebel and longtime senator was elected the country's first leftist leader in a race against construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez, while Macron failed to ward off efforts from France's far left and far right to block a parliamentary majority.

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Colombia

Petro edged out a victory, winning 50.57% of the vote with more than 97% of the vote counted Sunday, while Hernandez garnered 47.16%, The New York Times reported.

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Petro hailed the win as a "victory for God and for the people" in a tweet Sunday.

"Today is a holiday for the people," he wrote. "Let them celebrate the first popular victory. May so many sufferings be cushioned in the joy that today floods the heart of the Homeland."

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Petro will take office in August and face issues such as rising violence, deforestation of the Colombian Amazon, lack of opportunity and threats to democracy.

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He based his platform around agrarian reform, progressive taxation, ecological clean energy, sustainable economic development and state investment in public education and healthcare.

However, political opponents of Petro contend that his presidency could transform Colombia into "another Venezuela" characterized, as they see it, by a dictatorial regime that pushed the country into a humanitarian and economic crisis.

As he cast his vote in Bogota, the nation's capitol, earlier Sunday, young voters expressed their support for him in his third presidential bid.

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"The youth is more inclined toward revolution," Ingrid Forrero, 31, told The New York Times. "Toward the left, toward a change."

Hernandez cast his ballot in his hometown of Bucaramanga to chants of "Long live Rodolfo!" from supporters as he entered the polling station.

The trip marked a rare public appearance for the surprise candidate who held no rallies and agreed to a public debate with Petro only after being ordered to by court.

Hernandez, a former mayor, has been compared with other right-wing populists who have found success in recent years, such as former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and has faced criticism for assertions that he wishes to dismiss the legislative branch and declare a state of emergency as soon as he is elected and for voting against the peace agreement in the 2016 national plebiscite.

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France

After securing a win in the presidential election, Macron's Ensemble coalition was projected to lose dozens of seats in France's National Assembly.

Ensemble was projected to win 235-240 seats, short of the 289 needed to maintain an outright majority in parliament and well below polls that predicted they would win 255-305 seats, the BBC reported.

Sunday's races consisted of mostly runoff votes between two candidates as the leftist New Ecological and Social Popular Union, or NUPES, coalition led by far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon pulled mostly even with Ensemble in the first round last week.

NUPES was projected to win 157-163 seats, while the far-right National rally was expected to greatly expand its presence in parliament from eight seats to between 85 and 90.

Without a 289-seat majority, Macron will require support from other parties to push through reforms such as raising the retirement age, cutting taxes and reforming benefits.

"They didn't think the left and Greens could get together -- it would be chaos and catastrophe," NUPES spokesman Ian Brossat said during a rally. "But the chaos today is economic, with food prices going up. We've got 10 million people in poverty."

Presidential runner-up Marine Le Pen's was expected to maintain her own parliamentary seat after she was soundly defeated by Macron in the presidential race and urged voters to ensure "Macron is denied a majority in parliament."

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"The second round offers us the opportunity to send a very large group of patriotic lawmakers to the new National Assembly," she said after the first round last week.

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