The 62-year-old left-wing senator and his 77-year-old outsider, qualified as a surprise in the 1st round without ideology or party, are almost tied in the polls a week before the election.

Both are anti-establishment figures, a consequence of the weariness expressed at the ballot box with regard to the traditional parties (on the right in particular), put out of the race and which have monopolized power for two centuries.

As the second round approaches, the two camps are trying to convince the abstainers (45%, mainly young people), seduce women and the last undecided.

No more public speeches, debates and fair play. The last round between Petro and Hernandez is played on the ground of emotions and the discredit of the rival.

– Petro, a “simple man” –

For his first-round campaign, Petro used his public speaking skills in the 100 public squares he scoured across the country.

“When he gets on a stage and talks for more than an hour with the people, what he does is deepen his economic model, (…) and it can get a bit complicated” , recognizes Alfonso Prada, one of his advisers and campaign spokesperson.

Faced with the meteoric rise of Hernandez, his simple language and manners that appeal to many Colombians, Petro changed his communication strategy.

“Our fault was not having been able to speak more simply with people”, deciphers Mr. Prada in an interview with AFP.

The left-wing candidate left the big meetings to appear to the people, precisely in order to soften the image of the rigid and intellectual politician of the first part of the race. On a fisherman’s boat, in the kitchen of a mother, alongside miners, craftsmen, or a peasant in a sugar cane field.

“We have a Gustavo Petro (…) who speaks much more directly and simply with people”, welcomes the strategist.

However, this 2.0 campaign was seriously disrupted at the end of the week by the leak of pirated recordings of strategic meetings of Petro’s inner circle, a dark spy affair which has since made the headlines under the title of “Petrovideos”. .

These meetings are about “discrediting”, including by defamation, his adversaries, statements which singularly contradict Petro’s narrative on a respectful campaign and his promises to implement a “politics of love”.

– Hernandez, a “true man” –

Dubbed the King of TikTok, Hernandez has structured his entire speech around fighting corruption and “thieves.” With a paradox: he himself is in trouble with the justice system for an irregular contract signed during his term as mayor of the great city of Bucaramanga (2016-2019).

He refuses direct debate, limits interviews and canceled public appearances last week after the ‘Petrovideos’ aired, saying he ‘fears the worst’ of Petro’s ‘criminal gang’, including a mysterious assassination plot at the “knife”.

“Rodolfo is unfiltered. One of the strengths of his strategy is to show himself as he is (…), with the blunders he sometimes makes because of his outspokenness, but also his freedom to say things”, explains Angel Becassino, his main campaign adviser.

In the home stretch, he tried to reinforce his character as a pragmatic businessman who made himself, by dint of hard work, in the world of real estate, without compromising with the old politicians. The latter, the right in the lead, nevertheless immediately expressed their support for the second round.

A strange mix of Donald Trump, Salvadoran Presidents Nayib Bukele and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), Hernandez has already announced that he will copy the latter’s daily press conferences and has promised to publicly pillory members of Congress who reject his plans.

With three “primary slogans: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t betray”, Hernandez wants to solve “the lack of money, the lack of jobs and the lack of security”, according to his strategist. Faced with his many verbal slippages (his detractors accuse him of sexism in particular), the independent wants to be an ordinary man who, by telling the truth, can make some mistakes.

His vice-presidential candidate, Marelen Castillo, also stepped up to soften Hernandez’s image in the eyes of women.

This campaign for the second round “is a much lighter version of the two candidates (…) to try to reach this public dissatisfied with the two men, these 5% of undecided voters, with a strategy of emotions rather than proposals “, observes Felipe Botero, expert at the University of the Andes.