Guatemala body certifies Arevalo victory, hours after party suspended

The suspension plunged the centre-left politician’s presidency into uncertainty even before it’s officially begun.

Bernardo Arevalo, celebrates the results of the presidential run-off election in Guatemala City. He is punching the air and smiling.
Bernardo Arevalo has been officially declared winner of Guatemala's election [File: Luis Acosta/AFP]

Guatemala’s top electoral tribunal has declared Bernardo Arevalo the winner of the country’s presidential elections but his presidency was plunged into uncertainty even before it had officially begun after another government body suspended his Seed Movement party.

Arevalo, the centre-left son of a former president, won the second-round run-off against former First Lady Sandra Torres in a landslide, as Guatemalans voted in droves for change.

According to the official count, the 64-year-old former diplomat secured 60.9 percent of the valid votes cast against 37.2 percent for the right-wing Torres.

Officials from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal on Monday confirmed Arevalo as the winner and were then confronted with questions about a document from the electoral registry published in the media that ordered a temporary suspension of Seed’s legal registration.

During the election campaign, one of the most tumultuous in the country’s history, prosecutors had threatened to bar the party from the poll, prompting an outcry among people in Guatemala and in the international community.

“These are the official results and that’s what counts in Guatemala,” tribunal magistrate Gabriel Aguilera said.

It is not clear what the suspension might mean for the president-elect and the nearly two dozen Seed legislators who were elected to parliament. Arevalo is due to take office on January 14.

Tribunal head Irma Palencia said the citizens registry was a lower authority and that she had yet to be formally notified about the suspension order. She stressed that Arevalo was officially the winner.

The electoral registry moved to suspend Seed after the attorney general’s office opened an investigation into the party over alleged irregularities in the gathering of signatures for its formation.

It has three days to challenge the suspension, with any appeal elevating the issue to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Some of the country’s elite see the rise of Arevalo, who campaigned on social progress and against corruption, as a threat.

Earlier this week, the Organization of American States’s human rights commission asked that Guatemala provide protection for Arevalo after reports emerged of a possible plot to kill him.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies