*Election day updates at bottom of post
Despite the recent resignation of Otto Pérez Molina, a deepening political crises, and calls for the postponement of general elections, Guatemalans are gearing up for election day on September 6 — so far set to move forward as planned.
In addition to the presidential election, Guatemalans will also be voting for all 158 congress people and mayors in every city. Here, interestingly, the slate of candidates includes a number of people who come not from partisan political backgrounds but from Guatemala’s historic social movements and indigenous leadership structures.
The pool of candidates for president, though, has left voters feeling deflated, and analysts estimate that there will be high rates of absenteeism and “null” votes. (Null votes are used as a purely symbolic statement of dissent, given that a single vote can decide an election.)
Of the 14 parties that have launched presidential candidates, a handful have emerged as the most popular in polls:
Manuel Baldizón (president) and Edgar Barquín (vice president)
[Party: Renewed Democratic Liberty (LIDER)]
Baldizón is rumored to be engaged in illicit activity in Petén, though he is not under investigation. He has been an outspoken critic of the CICIG, which is currently investigating his vice-presidential candidate, Edgar Barquín, for criminal conspiracy, influence trafficking and money laundering.
Jimmy Morales (president) and Jafet Cabrera Franco (vice president)
[Party: National Convergence Front (FCN)]
Morales is a professional comedian with no experience in politics, yet his presidential campaign and has become very popular in polls. A candidate with the FCN party, he presents himself as a “new option,” but is funded in part by hard-liners in the Guatemalan military. Morales has also been linked to Byron Lima, a former military captain currently serving a sentence for the 1998 assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi and who is now accused of criminal conspiracy and influence trafficking from within prison.
Sandra Torres (president) and Mario Leal (vice president)
[Party: National Union of Hope (UNE)]
Sandra Torres has been called the “least worst” by some. Of the center-left UNE party, she was first lady during President Colom’s administration, 2008-2012; she forged a divorce in order to run for president in 2011 but was barred. Her vice-presidential running mate is also under investigation for criminal activity.
Zury Rios (president) and Juan Luis Mirón (vice president)
[Party: Vision with Values (VIVA)]
Ríos is the daughter of military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, accused of overseeing a campaign of genocide and war crimes in the early 1980s. As the family member of a participant in a military coup, her candidacy is technically illegal.
Roberto González (president) and Rodolfo Neutze Aguirre (vice president)
González is a former energy minister who is currently facing charges for alleged influence trafficking.
UPDATE | Sept. 4: Polls show that support for Baldizón has decreased, with Morales and Torres tied for the lead.
UPDATE | Sept. 5: UDEFEGUA released a press release calling for the peaceful expression of rights on Sept. 6, including for those who choose to cast a null vote or choose to abstain from the process.
UPDATE | Sept. 6: Guatemala’s new president, Maldonado Aguirre, voted early in the morning, reiterating the importance of reforms and urging “dialogue before conflict.” Many voting stations opened as normal and without conflict, though with mixed results in attendance.
Although the process has overall been peaceful, several issues of interference in the voting process have been reported, including:
- In Totonicapán, some community members reported that the TSE call center was not functioning properly, and that there was confusion around voting locations.
- One of this year’s candidates, Carlos Bezares, reported that he was unable to vote because someone else had falsified his documents and voted in his name.
- There have been reports from several different areas about the transportation of people to voting sites by political parties. The Mirador Electoral election observation and monitoring group has also stated that it is aware of the vote buying that some parties intend to carry out, signaling out the UNE, PP and LIDER parties.