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Guatemalan elections: Third straight runoff for ex-first lady Sandra Torres after first place finish

Posted: Monday, June 26, 2023. 8:20 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Reuters reports that after preliminary results from the first round of the Guatemalan presidential election held on Sunday, a run-off to be held in August will likely pit former first lady Sandra Torres against another center-left candidate running on an anti-graft ticket who bucked forecasts to finish runner-up.

Torres, who won 15.8 percent of the vote for her National Unity of Hope party (UNE) with 98 percent of returns in, likely faces Bernardo Arevalo of left of center Semilla who got 11.8 percent. Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal is expected to announce definitive results later today.

The run-off will take place on August 20 after, as expected, no candidate came close to winning the 50 percent plus one vote needed for outright victory.

Torres maintained optimism, guaranteeing victory against “whoever it may be,” while Arevalo, ex-diplomat and son of former president Juan Jose Arevalo, tweeted in response to opinion polls not forecasting he would make the second round, “We didn’t come to win the polls. We came to win the elections.”

Arevalo has made tackling corruption a key priority. His party’s previous presidential campaign was fronted by former attorney general and anti-corruption stalwart Thelma Aldana, though she was ultimately barred from running in 2019 on the grounds of alleged financial impropriety. Aldana said the allegations were politically motivated due to the historic campaign against graft she waged together with the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Aldana later sought asylum in the United States.

Nearly one in four ballots were spoiled or left blank, as Guatemalans expressed discontent at the decision to bar early front-runner, businessman Carlos Pineda. Pineda urged supporters to spoil their ballots after he was ruled ineligible. Running third in the race on 7.8 percent of the vote was Manuel Conde, candidate of conservative President Alejandro Giammattei’s ruling Vamos party, results showed.

Preliminary results also pointed to a fragmented Congress which could make it hard for the next president to govern.

Polls have suggested that the 67-year-old Torres will struggle to win a run-off given her unpopularity in the capital, Guatemala City, home to a high percentage of the electorate. She finished runner-up in the last two presidential elections. The ex-wife of Alvaro Colom, Guatemala’s president from 2008 to 2012, Torres was competing with over 20 other candidates, including Edmond Mulet, a career diplomat, and Zury Rios, daughter of the late right-wing dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

The contest to succeed the outgoing Giammattei, who is limited by law to a single term, was overshadowed by a court ruling that blocked four candidates, including Pineda.

 

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