When Colombia chooses its next president on Sunday, the pivotal election will represent a blow to the country’s dominant political force as voters have become increasingly disillusioned by chronic poverty, inequity and growing insecurity.
Colombia’s animating political dynamic was born during the popular presidency of Álvaro Uribe, a conservative who led the country from 2002 to 2010.
The right-wing leader rapidly gained widespread good will as a result of his heavy-handed tactics in Colombia’s fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a left-wing insurgency in the country’s decades-long internal conflict.
The military, under Mr. Uribe, effectively beat back the rebel group, reducing violence in the lives of many Colombians, especially in cities.
It made him one of the country’s most powerful politicians and a kingmaker who could propel candidates into power with his support.
But the former president’s political movement has been tarnished by controversy, perhaps most prominently by the false positive scandal in which the Colombian military is accused by a transitional justice court of killing more than 6,400 civilians between 2002 and 2008,and passing them off as enemy combatants to increase its casualty counts.
While the scandal was never directly connected to Mr. Uribe, many of his close associates in government have been linked to the case.
Now, with two candidates who have both shunned the political establishment facing off in a neck-and-neck campaign for the presidency, Uribismo is once again a key element of the race.
But this time, the candidates are trying as hard as they can to distance themselves from the former leader.
One candidate, Gustavo Petro, a leftist who was once a member of an urban guerrilla group, has come to represent a sort of polar opposite of Mr. Uribe.
His opponent, Rodolfo Hernandez, a wealthy businessman who has used TikTok to help promote his campaign and has the backing of conservative, has issued a list on Twitter detailing 20 “differences I have with Uribe.”
Arlene Tickner, a professor at Rosario University in Bogotá, said that “being associated with Uribismo has become a liability in this election.”
Mr. Uribe hasn’t endorsed anyone in Sunday’s race, though he has said that a vote for Mr. Petro would be a vote for socialism.
Many younger Colombians have little knowledge of Mr. Uribe’s tenure and associate him more with the country’s current challenges.
Hilda Robles Camacho, 22, who graduated from college with a degree in health administration and has yet to find a job, said she blames Mr. Duque, and by extension Mr. Uribe, for many of her country’s woes. She said that family members who were once loyal Uribe supporters have now shifted their backing to Mr. Petro.
“People are waking up,” Ms. Robles Camacho said. “They are seeing all the bad things that Uribismo has caused.”