A veteran political candidate and an unexpected candidate who never appeared in the polls are emerging as the most voted in the first round of the presidential elections held this Sunday in Guatemala, in which the null vote was the first option chosen by the population.
With 95% of polling stations counted, the party of former first lady Sandra Torres, who went from social democracy to a more conservative trend; and the center-left formation of the son of former president Juan Jose Arevalo, Bernardo Arevalo; they received 15% and 12% of the votes, respectively.
Since no candidate exceeded the 50% support needed to define the next president of the country in this first round, it would be the two of them who face each other in a second electoral round on August 20 if the trends are confirmed.
Manuel Conde, candidate of the Vamos party of the current president, Alejandro Giammattei, is in third place with 7.9% of support. He is followed by Armando Castillo, from the Viva party, with 7.4%.
Former United Nations diplomat Edmond Mulet and the daughter of de facto president Efraín Ríos Montt, Zury Ríos -who were two of the big favorites according to the polls- have 6.8% and 6.7% of the votes, respectively.
This Sunday's elections were marked by a general weariness among the population due to the multiple allegations of corruption in the State, accusations of fraud and the blocking by the electoral authorities of three candidates far from the ruling party and power groups (Carlos Pineda, Thelma Cabrera and Roberto Arzu) who according to the surveys had high possibilities and who promoted null voting as a symbol of protest.
A good proof of this electoral disappointment is that this invalid vote, in fact, was the first option chosen by Guatemalans according to these provisional results with 17.4%.
Participation was just over 59% of the 9.3 million Guatemalans called to the polls. Abstention in the country is traditionally high: in 2019 it was 38% in the first round and 58% in the second.
Election day, in which representatives of Congress, mayors and members of the Central American Parliament were elected, recorded isolated incidents.
One of the most important occurred in San José del Golfo, north of Guatemala City, where voting was suspended due to riots originated by supposed transports and transfers of people from other places to vote in this municipality.
Torres, the eternal candidate
Sandra Torres, who was first lady during the government of Alvaro Colom (2008-2012), was once again the most voted this Sunday, as in the first round of the elections four years ago.
Graduated in Communication Sciences and a 67-year-old businesswoman, Torres returns to compete for the presidency for the third consecutive time. In fact, he also tried it in 2011 but his registration was not allowed due to his recent divorce from former President Álvaro Colom.
Candidate of the National Unity of Hope (UNE) -a party that was initially defined as social democratic, although analysts currently place it in a rather center-right trend-, she was on the verge of winning in the last two elections after being defeated in the second round by Jimmy Morales and Alejandro Giammattei, respectively.
During her years as first lady , Torres distinguished himself by his commitment to social programs. In addition to bringing them back, in this campaign she promised half the minimum wage for single mothers, eliminate VAT from the basic food basket, and emulate the security strategy of President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, for which she proposed to “intervene.” and “militarize” jails and build more maximum security prisons.
Opposed to a possible return of the International Commission against Impunity (Cicig) that fought corruption in the country for more than a decade and jailed high-profile leaders, Torres was arrested in 2019 for alleged electoral financing illegal of his party and illicit association. After several months in jail, she was placed under house arrest until she was acquitted at the end of last year.
With a strong personality, Torres concentrates a large percentage of “antivoto” (the people who would rather vote for anyone than for her), as could be seen in the last two elections (in 2019, she was even the most voted in the first round but was defeated in the second by Giammattei). His greatest support is in rural areas, with special emphasis on women.
Arevalo, the surprise after the polls
For his part, Bernardo Arevalo is the great surprise of these results given that his name did not appear among the first candidates in the electoral surveys on voting intention.
A 64-year-old sociologist and diplomat, he is the son of Juan Jose Arevalo, the first popularly elected president in Guatemala after the 1944 Revolution. During his career he held positions such as consul in Israel, vice minister of Foreign Affairs in his country and ambassador to Spain.
He is currently a deputy in Congress for Movimiento Semilla, a party that presented a candidate for president this year for the first time, since the 2019 candidacy of former attorney general Thelma Aldana was not finally authorized by the electoral authorities.
The party , which defines itself as a social democrat and progressive and of which Arevalo is one of the founders, first emerged as an analysis group after the 2015 protests that led to the resignation of the then president, Otto Perez Molina, marred by political corruption scandals over those who were finally sentenced.
Their proposals go through “the urgent rescue of the State in the face of corruption” through the creation of a National Anti-Corruption System, the control of prisons and strengthening the National Civil Police in terms of security, generating employment through the construction of roads and infrastructures with public investment, the start-up of more than 400 new jobs health and granting scholarships for students.
Arevalo blames the last three Guatemalan governments for having reduced the spaces for democracy and fomenting authoritarian measures in the country. He describes the work of Cicig as positive and efficient, which in his opinion evidenced a system of corruption entrenched in the country and whose departure in 2019 by decision of former president Jimmy Morales, he considers,