Former first lady Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arevalo, of the social democracy, will contest a second round in Guatemalaaccording to a “practically definitive” trend of the presidential elections on Sunday, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).
“We could really say that it is a practically definitive trend, we are reaching 90%” of the vote count, said TSE magistrate Gabriel Aguilera this morning, nine hours after the end of the vote, when Torres obtained 15.12% of the votes and Arevalo 12.20%.
The winner of the runoff on August 20 will replace the right-wing president Alejandro Giammattei, who reaches the end of his term with 76% disproval, according to the ProDatos firm.
“What a surprise this presidential election gave us,” tweeted the lawyer and political analyst Egdar Ortiz, highlighting the second place of Arevalo, who was in eighth place voting intention in previous polls.
Guatemalans voted on Sunday in a context of poverty, violence and corruption to choose their next president among 22 candidatesafter a campaign marked by the exclusion of contenders and the persecution of the press.
Almost 3,500 voting centers worked on Sunday to receive the votes of some 9.4 million qualified citizens, but lParticipation barely bordered 60%according to the TSE.
“This is not the time to claim victory, we are prudent,” said Arevalo, son of the reformist president Juan Jose Arevalo (1945-1951) and candidate of the Seed movement.
However, “we are very pleased with the results,” added the 64-year-old sociologist.
Torres, on the other hand, declared herself confident of winning in the second round, although he lost the 2015 and 2019 runoffs.
“With whomever (the runoff) we are going to win, we are leading above 15% right now,” declared the 67-year-old former first lady.
“We are ready, ready and willing to win,” added the candidate of the National Unity of Hope (UNE).
In addition, in these elections they must be elected 160 deputies, 340 mayors and 20 representatives to the Central American Parliament, but the counting of these votes would take several more hours.
Whichever is the winner of the runoff, will mark an ideological turn in the country after three right-wing leaders: Otto Perez (2012-2015), Jimmy Morales (2016-2020) and Giammattei, who must step down in January 2024.
However, the match Vamos de Giammattei would be the majority bench in the 160-seat Congress, winning 40 deputies, according to a projection by the influential daily Prensa Libre. Torres’s party would have 27 deputies and Arevalo’s 24.
Neither Torres nor Arevalo promote legalizing same-sex marriages or abortion, which is only allowed if there is a risk to the life of the mother.
In third place of the presidential right-wing pro-government candidate Manuel Conde with 7.84%, right-wing businessman Armando Castillo (supported by an evangelical party) in fourth with 7.37% and centrist Edmond Mulet in fifth with 6.78%, according to the TSE.
The rightist Zury Rios, daughter of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, was in sixth place, with 6.68%. She and Mulet trailed Torres in previous polls.
There was a high number of invalid votes (17.41%), four times more than in 2019, and white votes (6.98%), reflecting the lack of interest and mistrust in the electoral process. Voting is voluntary in Guatemala and re-election is prohibited.
Torres, ex-wife of the late president Alvaro Colom (2008-2012), denounced that the official party Vamos eHe was “buying votes” and Mulet also suggested that there were anomalies in the elections.
Voting centers also operated in 15 cities in the United States, where 2.8 million Guatemalans live, but turnout was very low, according to local media.
Despite the elections the democratic system navigates troubled waters in Guatemala, with government control over the judiciary, prosecutions of journalists, exclusion of candidates, and persecution of prosecutors who fought corruption.
In addition, the electoral and judicial authorities excluded two candidates from the presidential race: the right-wing businessman Carlos Pineda and the left-wing indigenous woman Thelma Cabrera, who called for null voting.
With information from AFP