New poll shows tight runoff between Colombia's presidential candidates

FILE PHOTO: Colombian centre-right presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez gestures as he speaks during a gathering with supporters in Miami, Florida, U.S. June 9, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Independent candidate Rodolfo Hernandez and leftist Gustavo Petro were locked in a tight virtual tie for the June 19 runoff election for Colombia's presidency, according to an Invamer poll released on Friday.

According to the poll results, Hernandez, a construction magnate, reached 48.2% of the vote preference, and Petro, a former mayor and current senator, scored 47.2%.

While Hernandez, of the Anti-Corruption Rulers' League Party, gained from the 47.4% he scored in Invamer's May poll, Petro of the Historic Pact lost 2.8 percentage points from the previous survey.

The result indicates a tie as the difference between the two candidates falls within the poll's margin of error of 2.69%.

Hernandez made a surprise electoral leap in the first round of the May elections, defeating the second favorite in the polls, center-right candidate Federico Gutierrez. That qualified him to run for president in the second round.

The survey included 2,000 interviews conducted between June 3 and 7 in 83 cities and municipalities in the Andean nation.

Meanwhile, 4.7% of those surveyed said they would cast a blank ballot, an option Colombian voters can choose when they decide not to vote for any candidate.

Hernandez, 77, is campaigning against corruption to boost economic growth and finance programs focused on reducing poverty and inequality, generating employment, as well as improving education, health and housing for the poorest.

Petro, a 62-year-old former guerrilla and economist, proposes major economic and social changes.

Some of his initiatives, like suspending new oil exploration contracts, reforming the pension system, ending tax exemptions and raising taxes on the richest, have caused concern among oil companies and miners.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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