Guatemalan voters show uncertainty ahead of presidential run | Elections News

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Guatemala City, Guatemala – Campaigning is underway in Guatemala ahead of a runoff election on August 20, which will pit progressive candidate Bernardo Arevalo against incumbent Sandra Torres for the presidency.

But the race has been fraught with uncertainty ever since Arevalo advanced to the second round of voting.

He and his party, the Seed Movement, exceeded expectations in the June 25 general elections, securing one of two places in the running with surprisingly strong support.

But that has made the party a target for scrutiny – and possible electoral interference.

Rival parties called for a review of the vote counts, prompting a court to suspend the June 25 election results until the evaluation was completed.

When the investigation confirmed Arevalo’s second-place finish, forces within the government have also threatened to cancel his bid.

Earlier this month, one of Guatemala’s top prosecutors successfully appealed to a court to cancel the legal recognition of the Seed Movement, citing irregularities in the signatures collected to create the party.

The Constitutional Court of Guatemala, the highest judicial authority in the country, ultimately reversed the decision, saying that the courts and the public prosecutor’s office could not intervene and suspend a party during the election cycle.

But the public prosecutor’s office has proceeded to raid seed transfer offices, removing crates of documents marked as “evidence”.

Prosecutors also raided other election-related government bureaus, including the High Electoral Tribunal and the National Register of Citizens, where documents related to party formation are kept.

The fact that these activities were led by officials who were previously accused of corruption has added to the fear of electoral integrity. The United States has previously sanctioned Guatemalan Attorney General María Consuelo Porras for using her position “to protect her political friends and obtain undue political favors”.

In Guatemala City on Tuesday, Al Jazeera spoke to residents about the current political crisis – and the uncertainty they feel before the run on August 20.

A man in a gray T-shirt stands against a pink wall.  A clothesline holds up strips of material for the piñatas.
Oscar Antonio Garcia, a 43-year-old piñata maker, stands in his shop in the historic center of Guatemala City [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

Oscar Antonio Garcia, 43, a piñata maker who lives in Guatemala City

“The situation is bad. There is a lot of corruption.”

In response to which he will vote in the second round: “Actually, no. Because it’s just going to be the same again. The people in power now are bad.

“What happens is that corruption comes from within. There is no trust. There is no trust [politician]for corruption comes from within.”

A woman in a sleeveless yellow T-shirt stands outside a shop in Guatemala City.
Irma Ixcaya, a 35-year-old student from San Pablo la Laguna, fears that the study on the transfer of seeds will cause confusion [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

Irma Ixcaya, 35, student from San Pablo la Laguna, who lives in Guatemala City

“There is confusion. They create confusion. Because the truth is I don’t know if the crimes [the Seed Movement is accused of] invented or if the person actually did it. I hope, as the law says, that no one is guilty after being proven otherwise. And why are they only investigating one side and not both?

“There is a lot of uncertainty about whether the elections are going to happen or not. So yes, it’s somewhat confusing, because what they’re trying to do is remove someone so that person can’t participate, which they can’t do. “

A man in a white apron moves a large metal pot full of pork ribs in the doorway of a shop.
Edgar Ixquiak, a 62-year-old businessman, prepares pork chops in his shop near the historic center of Guatemala City [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

Edgar Ixquiak, 62, businessman from Guatemala City

“It’s always been bad here, but now it’s worse, because there’s no change [political] structure. Since I was a child, I have lived in this situation.

“[These elections] they are a farce.

“This year has been bad. I was at the point of closing two businesses because there was no way out. I was frustrated, and then the economic situation got worse. “

A woman in a shirt with a dotted pattern sits in a shop with items for sale: glass bottles, plates, tea cups, glass drink bottles and porcelain figurines.
Silvia de la Cruz, a 54-year-old antiques dealer, believes the seed transfer is the ‘most viable option’ for voters [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

Silvia de la Cruz, 54, antiques dealer from Guatemala City

“The truth is that I feel that freedom continues here in Guatemala, and the same group of people who treat [politics] for their convenience in the elections to continue doing so. Actually, democracy is not what is happening. They are breaking the Constitution, the laws and our rights as citizens.

“I have to participate [in the second round of voting] because I don’t want the same corrupt deal. We must vote so that we can fulfill the will of the people, so that democracy continues, because this is going to be a circle of people who work only for themselves without benefiting the rest of the citizenry.

“The party that came second [the Seed Movement] the most viable option for Guatemala, so that democracy continues and justice is done. Because we as a people cannot continue with so much corruption and so much violence.”

A woman in an embroidered top stands behind a table full of fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes and bananas.  Behind her, garlic hangs from a wall.
Kristine Cutz, a 54-year-old fruit and vegetable seller from San Juan Comalapa, believes that the existing government is afraid to change the status quo [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

Kristine Cutz, 54, fruit and vegetable seller from San Juan Comalapa

“Those who are in power now are only stealing everything and supporting the rich. They are the ones who suffer us, the poor.

“The [rich] you don’t want someone new in power. They are using force so that one of their own has to stay in power, so that we continue in the same situation we are in now. And that’s why the people don’t want anymore [the status quo]. We want change because we are tired of so much theft.

“We will see a change if so [Arevalo] remains We must have hope. We have to change.”

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