Guatemala to hold election recount over fraud allegations

The recount would include municipal and congressional polls held in tandem with the presidential vote, official says.

Guatemala vote recount
Protests broke out on Thursday in several municipalities where mayoral candidates rejected the results [Saul Martinez/Reuters]

Guatemala will hold a vote recount after fraud allegations in the wake of last Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections, the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced on Thursday.

TSE President Julio Solorzano told journalists in the Central American country that he had ordered a recount of certified returns from each ballot box to “clarify disagreements.”

Speaking at a news conference, Solorzano said the recount would begin on Monday. The recount would include municipal and congressional elections held in tandem with the presidential vote.

Centre-left former first lady Sandra Torres leads in the presidential polls with 25.7 percent of the vote, ahead of conservative Alejandro Giammattei, with 14 percent.

Both had been expected to contest the August 11 run-off round before Thursday’s announcement.

The leftist Movement for the Liberation of Peoples – whose candidate Thelma Cabrera came fifth in the presidential race – denounced “evident electoral fraud.”

Solorzano said he had invited Cabrera and her party to the court to check her complaint.

The tumultuous campaign to succeed outgoing President Jimmy Morales saw two leading candidates barred from taking part in the election and the country’s top electoral crimes prosecutor flee the country after threats.

Disturbances broke out on Thursday in several municipalities where mayoral candidates rejected the results.

A lawmaker from Morales’ FCN-Nacion party, Estuardo Galdamez, went on social media to condemn electoral fraud and said the country was on the brink of becoming a “dictatorship” under Torres’ Unity of Hope party.

The Organization of American States (OAS) welcomed the TSE decision, which it said was aimed at “providing greater transparency and certainty in the electoral process, especially in relation to local and legislative elections.”

The TSE had on Wednesday rejected allegations of fraud in the legislative poll.

The OAS, which sent an observer mission to the polls led by former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, had signed off on the election and in its statement on Thursday rejected allegations of fraud, despite reporting errors.

“The mission received complaints of vote buying and observed possible voter transport, as well as errors in the digitalisation of ballots,” it said.

“However, these actions in no way change the popular will reflected in the results of the presidential contest.”

“The important thing now is to conclude the process, clear all doubts and begin to focus on implementing the recommendations so that the process of the second round is better than the first.”

One person died and nine police officers were wounded in disturbances that followed the polls last Sunday.

Source: AFP