What You Need To Know About Guatemala’s Impending Election

As two weeks have elapsed in Guatemala’s presidential campaign season, the presidential candidacies of the three predicted front runners are all hanging in the balance. It now remains within the power of the Constitutional Court to confirm or deny their legitimacy as uncertainty reigns within the nation. Iduvina Hernandez Batres, director for the Association for the Study and Promotion of Security in Democracy states that there is “so much uncertainty” and worries that “two weeks after the campaign began… there is no clarity as to who overall will be the candidates for the presidency”.


Former Attorney General Thelma Aldana is running as the leader of the Semilla Party. This party is rooted in the mass protests against political corruption that eventually led to the fall of the Perez Mollina administration. The party would classify itself as centre-left; however, its strong stance against corruption draws a broader spectrum of supporters, and Aldana would describe herself as right-wing. The Electoral Tribunal has ruled to annul Aldana as a hopeful due to her arrest which occurred the day before she was registered as a presidential candidate. The annulment was based upon the claim that the documents provided in her application were no longer valid. Aldana’s arrest warrant came from charges of embezzlement and falsification in relation to training services that were reportedly never provided. She was in El Salvador on the date of the warrant being issued and has to this day still not returned. More than likely, attempts to annul her candidacy are caused by her close work with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala in investigating the incumbent President Jimmy Morales, his relatives, and his party, the National Convergence Front. Ligia Hernandez Gomes, the Semilla party Deputy Secretary, states that “nearly everyone has tried to stop Aldana from running”.

Previous runner-up and former First Lady Sandra Torres, candidate for the National Unity of Hope party, is in a similar but different situation. While she is not currently the subject of a legal battle, it seems that she will be seeing the inside of a courtroom in due time. Her first attempt at elective office was to succeed her husband, Alvaro Colom Caballeros, as his term in office ended in 2011. Her party is a social democratic organization that may be taken to court over the use of what was allegedly illegal campaign financing in 2015. Recently, Prensa Libra, a Guatemalan newspaper, leaked an audio recording of Torres discussing several million dollars in unreported campaign financing, placing her candidacy in serious jeopardy.


The right-wing Valor party’s candidate also faces uncertainty regarding her candidacy. Zury Rios is daughter of Efrain Rios Montt, a former military ruler who was convicted of genocide in 2013, dying before the conclusion of his partial retrial. The majority of those affected by this genocide were indigenous Maya. Naturally, this makes her the subject of an impending Constitutional Court ruling. There is, however, no guarantee that she will respect whatever the ruling turns out to be.


It is apparent that more than any candidate or party, the true ruler of Guatemala seems to be chaos. The pressure on the Constitutional Court to make fair rulings while still maintaining the fragility of democratic infrastructure in the nation is immense. At the current moment, the only thing to do is await these rulings as whatever they are, they will have significant repercussions on the country and its’ impending election.