Guatemala election run-off: Chaos after key party suspended

The attorney general’s office suspended the second-placed Seed Movement party after election officials certified the first-round vote.

Guatemala election
Guatemalans took to the streets in protest and demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Electoral Tribunal until heavy rain drove them away [Esteban Biba/EPA]

Guatemala’s troubled presidential election was thrown into even greater turmoil on Wednesday when the country’s top electoral tribunal confirmed the results of the June 25 vote while the attorney general’s office announced that the second-place Seed Movement party had been suspended.

The seemingly contradictory moves fed more than two weeks of rising tensions and suspicions after the first round of voting, which had seemingly sent conservative Sandra Torres and progressive Bernardo Arevalo, who leads the Seed Movement, into an August 20 presidential run-off.

There were immediate calls on Wednesday for Guatemalans to take to the streets in protest and demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Electoral Tribunal until heavy rain drove them away.

It was not immediately clear how the situation would play out now that yet another court had intervened in Guatemala’s electoral process, but electoral authorities said Torres and Arevalo would face each other on August 20.

In an interview with CNN en Espanol, Arevalo said electoral law states parties cannot be disqualified after an election takes place.

But Rafael Curruchiche, the special prosecutor against impunity, said in a video statement that in May 2022 a citizen reported having his signature falsely added to the signature gathering effort of Arevalo’s party and that the attorney general office’s investigation also found 12 deceased people were included on its list of signatures.

The special prosecutor said there were indications that more than 5,000 signatures were illegally gathered for the party.

Curruchiche’s statement was released as the country waited for a scheduled news conference by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in which it was expected to certify the result of the June 25 election. The tribunal confirmed the result minutes after the prosecutor announced that the Seed Movement’s legal status had been suspended.

After the first round, losing parties challenged the results and courts intervened to block certification of the results. This week, it appeared the demands imposed by the courts had finally been satisfied and electoral authorities said they were working towards certification of the results.

But talk began to circulate on social platforms that another hurdle could be coming from the attorney general’s office.

The relatively new Seed Movement party had needed at least 25,000 signatures to form itself legally. Curruchiche suggested that not knowing where the party got the funds to pay signature gatherers left open the possibility of money laundering.

The details of the case were made known to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in May, Curruchiche said.

In 2021, the United States government said that it had lost confidence in Guatemala’s commitment to battling corruption after Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras fired Curruchiche’s predecessor. Last year, the US State Department added Curruchiche to its list of corrupt and undemocratic actors, alleging that he obstructed corruption investigations.

Roberto Arzu, a conservative presidential hopeful who was barred from competing for allegedly starting his campaign prematurely, called on Guatemalans to take to the streets in protest following Curruchiche’s announcement.

“This is a corrupt system’s coup,” said Arzu, son of former President Álvaro Arzú.

Source: News Agencies