Colom wins Guatemala poll

Left-leaning businessman defeats retired general in election marked by voter apathy.

Colom has secured more than 51% of the vote in the presidential run-off [AFP]

Alvaro Colom, a left-leaning factory owner promising to end Guatemala’s desperate poverty, has won the country’s presidential election.

He defeated Otto Perez Molina, a retired army general who conceded defeat on Monday after results from 95 per cent of the vote showed him trailing Colom by six percentage points.

Colom, 56, secured more than 51 per cent of the votes in the presidential run-off in his third bid for the post, while Molina picked up just under 49 per cent.


Colom won by 4.7 per cent in the first round poll in September when parliamentarians and mayors were also elected. 

Molina, a former head of army intelligence who has promised tough action against violent drug cartels and youth street gangs, fell out of favour with voters after posting a slight early lead. 

Voter apathy


About six million of Guatemala‘s 13 million people were registered to cast ballots in Sunday’s election but voter apathy was apparent as few trickled into polling stations.


Mariana Sanchez, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Guatemala City, said the general mood during voting was dull and there were no queues outside voting centres.


“There is a sense of apathy here,” she said.



Crime the issue in Guatemala

“There is a belief the new president will not be able to deliver on his promises as they have not been able to in the past.”

Diego Garcia-Sayan, the head of the electoral observation mission from the Organisation of American States, told Al Jazeera that it was not unusual for the second round of voting to be lower than the first in Guatemala.
“Maybe it’s because in the second round people don’t vote again for mayors or people who represent them in the congress which probably it’s a person they know more than the candidates to the presidency that would make them feel they are a little bit far away,” he said.


The winner will take over as president from Oscar Berger on January 14.


September’s first round vote was a crushing defeat for Rigoberta Menchu, who won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her indigenous rights activism but who trailed far behind with just 3 per cent of the ballots.


Menchu is an indigenous Maya, the ethnic group that makes up the country’s majority, who often live in poverty and were the main victims of the country’s civil war.


Different positions


Molina had said that he would use the army and emergency laws to fight a brutal crime wave in the Central American nation.


Colom, on the other hand, campaigned on promises to tackle the country’s endemic corruption and alleviate crushing poverty as a means to combat crime.

Colom, left, beat Molina and will take over
the presidency on January 14 [AFP]

“We have had a strong hand for 50 years and it caused more than 250,000 victims in a dirty war,” he said, accusing Molina of trying to lead them back into the Cold War era.


He has admitted that organised crime is present in his party and some voters say he is not tough enough to fix the nation’s problems.


Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world and about 6,000 people were murdered in the country last year.


About 50 candidates and supporters were killed before the first round of voting, and a further five political murders were reported since then.


The country has been plagued by violence for much of its recent history.


The army ruled the Central American country for decades until the mid-1980s and committed hundreds of killings.


As many as 200,000 people are thought to have been killed during 36 years of civil war before the government and left-wing rebels made peace in 1996.


The country is a major transit point for cocaine shipped to the US, and drug cartels have grown in influence in recent years.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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