Caracas (OrinocoTribune.com)—Guatemala’s 2023 general elections commenced on Sunday as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) inaugurated the electoral process with a ceremony held at the Colegio Salesiano Don Bosco. The official opening ceremony featured a symbolic ribbon-cutting, marking the start of the electoral day to select the new president in the first round. With this act, the Guatemalan authorities have formally initiated the voting process.
Approximately 9.3 million Guatemalans have been summoned to partake in the upcoming elections to select candidates for the positions of president, vice president, and 160 congressional deputies. Additionally, 20 representatives for the Central American Parliament and 340 mayors will also be elected.
It is worth noting that the current right-wing and conservative president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, was elected in a runoff election held on August 11, 2019, where 61.41%. of voters did not participate. If no presidential candidate secures an absolute majority of votes in the first round of elections on June 25, another runoff election will take place on August 20, 2023.
The electoral campaign was marked by controversial judicial decisions made by the TSE and the Constitutional Court, in which three of the favorite candidates and opponents of the incumbent government of Giammattei were eliminated from the presidential race, as reported by HispanTV.
The magistrates of the TSE made the decision to disqualify Thelma Cabrera, an indigenous leader; Roberto Arzú García Granados, the son of former president Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen; and Carlos Pineda, a prominent businessman who was leading in the presidential election polls.
As the country headed into elections, Latinobarómetro reported that 65% of Guatemalans expressed a lack of trust in the country’s democratic process. Recent surveys published in the media revealed that no candidate managed to secure more than 20% of voting intentions.
Corruption and abstentionism
According to Manfredo Marroquín, an activist representing Acción Ciudadana, there is an anticipation of increased abstentionism in the upcoming elections. This sentiment arises from the prevailing belief among the majority of the population that elections fail to bring about substantial change for the country.
The former presidential candidate of the center-left party Encuentro por Guatemala, reflecting on the upcoming elections, conveyed a sense of disillusionment and lack of enthusiasm among the citizenry. According to the average citizen, the elections seem destined to perpetuate the status quo, leading to a significant portion of the population abstaining from voting. The candidate further anticipated a rising percentage of null votes, as the elections fail to generate any meaningful expectations or hopes for the people.
Marroquín highlights that the current situation in Guatemala raises numerous concerns regarding the credibility of the electoral process. Astonishingly, only 15% of the population believes that the voting will be conducted in a transparent manner. He shed light on the distressing reality, stating that “most, if not all, of the institutions have fallen into the hands of the so-called Pact of the Corrupt. Their objective is to protect themselves from any form of investigation.”
The analyst, in referencing the “Pact of the Corrupt,” is referring to the alliance that exists between politicians, businesspeople, and members of organized crime groups that were exposed by investigations conducted by the defunct International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was dissolved in 2019 by former President Jimmy Morales (2016-2020).
The magistrates of Guatemala’s TSE provided insights on the ongoing general elections in the country. They confirmed that, as of 2:00 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, a total of 96 complaints regarding irregularities had been officially registered with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as reported by Telesur.
According to Magistrate Irma Palencia, by 3:00 p.m. they were aware of five incidents, three of which had been resolved. She explained that these are isolated events and do not tarnish the electoral process.
She noted that, up until that point, there had been significant voter turnout, which she viewed as a positive development. However, due to the complicated nature of the nation’s electoral process, she was unable to provide a precise count of the number of voters. Nevertheless, she encouraged the electorate to make the most of the remaining hours available to cast their votes.
Magistrate Palencia and Magistrate Gabriel Aguilera officially announced the suspension of elections in the municipality of San José del Golfo due to force majeure and the need to safeguard the safety and well-being of all involved. Disturbances have persisted in this municipality since Saturday, and officers from the Guatemalan National Civil Police have resorted to tear gas, hindering the commencement of voting.
The altercations began with the arrival of election personnel who were forced out on buses by a large group of people who sprayed them with gasoline and threatened to set them on fire.
🇬🇹 #GuatemalaDecides | Police force fired tear gas at the population of San José del Golfo and want to force the electoral boards to hold the elections despite no guarantees.#Guatemala #teleSUR pic.twitter.com/04Zs8Qodfm
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) June 25, 2023
In response to a complaint lodged by the Commitment, Renewal, and Order Party (CREO) in the municipality of San Miguel Petapa, Magistrate Aguilera clarified that the party must formally submit the appropriate paperwork. Once the election day concludes, the TSE will then assess and address the matter accordingly.
Another incident was also confirmed in San Martin Zapotitlán, Retalhuleu, where a group of people destroyed election materials. Magistrate Rafael Rojas said that the municipal electoral board decided to protect the security of voters, electoral material, and facilities in response to the incident.
Furthermore, he reported that a number of individuals have been detained, and the authorities are actively investigating the incidents. The specific actions to be taken will be determined by the TSE. President Alejandro Giammattei, while exercising his right to vote, disclosed that 195 people have been arrested thus far for engaging in irregularities.
Voicing her strong opposition, the social democrat candidate Sandra Torres denounced the alleged vote-buying by the government in the Guatemalan elections. Torres, who currently leads the polls of voting intentions, expressed her concerns, stating that “the official party is not allowed to offer gifts or purchase votes. We have received complaints regarding vote-buying through the distribution of food.” Surrounded by reporters, the former first lady emphasized these concerns at the Valle Verde School in Guatemala City.
Torres is confident about making it to the second round of elections, having secured the top position in the polls with 21.3% of the voting intention, according to a study conducted by the firm ProDatos and published this week in the local newspaper Prensa Libre.
24% of votes either null or blank
At 10:18 p.m. (local time) Prensa Libre reported that with 21% of the votes counted, Sandra Torres was leading with 14.7% (154,002 votes) closely followed by Bernardo Arevalo from the Movimiento Semilla party with 12.93% (138,903 votes).
The more striking result presented by the Guatemalan newspaper with TSE data was that 23.97% of the votes were either null or blank, with 17.03% and 6.94% respectively. These figures confirm what many analysts stated about the disdain of the Guatemalan people towards their democracy, as they do not see that it represents their needs or aspirations.
Based on this preliminary report, it is indicated that a runoff election will occur on August 20, in accordance with Guatemalan electoral rules. This is due to the fact that none of the candidates appears to have garnered the required 50% of votes to secure victory in the first round.
Orinoco Tribune Special by staff
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/September 28, 2023