Three weeks after the Guatemalan presidential election, and subsequent to difficulties associated with the transmission of the results by computer systems, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) cannot explain why 23,000 extra votes were originally counted and how the voters were registered. The finding was made after comparing candidates’ official figures with the ones that appear on the TSE website. The TSE confirmed two weeks ago that its system had made an error in the vote-counting process. Nine political parties have had more than 2,000 votes each subtracted from their totals as the TSE numbers continue to reveal inconsistencies. Javier Zepeda, executive director of the Chamber of Industry, explained previously that ‘… one should not take for speculation or misrepresent what was a calculation error with a fraud.’ The electoral body has denied any kind of fraud several times, and its director, Gustavo Castillo, previously explained the agency’s own software was to blame. Castillo said the error was human and that some party numbers on ballots weren’t clear or legible, so data was registered incorrectly.
Guatemalans voted Sunday in a referendum that could take the country a step closer to resolving a longstanding territorial dispute with neighboring Belize. The ballot asked whether voters agree to send the issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, for a binding ruling. However, Belize has yet to hold its own referendum as stipulated under a 2008 agreement with Guatemala, under which both countries would ask the court to take up the matter. Guatemala claims some 4,200 square miles (11,000 square kilometers) of terrain administered by Belize — essentially the country’s entire southern half.
Jimmy Morales, a political neophyte and former TV comedian, swept into office as Guatemala’s new president Sunday when more than two-thirds of voters backed him in a second round of polling in presidential elections. Fed up with a political system infected with corruption, nepotism and criminal impunity, the voters chose a political rookie over contender Sandra Torres, a former first lady widely perceived to be part of the old power establishment. Torres conceded defeat Sunday evening, saying: “The people have made their choice, and we respect it. We are going to offer constructive support that will benefit the country.” Morales claimed victory after receiving just under 2.7 million votes — a 68.7% percent share of ballots cast — compared with 1.2 million cast for Torres, preliminary results from Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal showed.
A former comedian best known for performing in blackface and an afro wig is the odds-on favourite to become Guatemala’s new president this Sunday when he faces a former first lady in the final stage of an election overshadowed by a corruption scandal that has rocked the country’s political elite. Jimmy Morales, an evangelical Christian who is backed by retired generals implicated in civil war atrocities, has built a clear lead in the polls despite having no political experience or clear policies. The comedic actor’s popularity soared unexpectedly amid the corruption scandal which has led to dozens of high-profile arrests and unprecedented mass protests across the country. Morales took 24% of the votes in the election’s first round which was held just days after then president Otto Pérez Molina was forced to resign over a multimillion-dollar bribery case. Pérez Molina, along with his former vice-president, Roxana Baldetti, is currently in jail awaiting trial for corruption, illicit association and bribery. Morales’s plain and simple campaign slogan – “not corrupt, not a thief” – capitalised on widespread public disillusionment with the status quo.
A runoff next month will decide who will become Guatemala’s next president, with comedian-turned-politician Jimmy Morales as the race’s front-runner in the Central American nation battling a political crisis. Guatemala, a country of 15 million, is reeling from a corruption scandal that has prompted the resignation of its president, vice president and more than a dozen Cabinet members, ministers and government officials. No candidate came close to the 50% plus one needed to lock up the vote in Sunday’s election. Morales, 46, had 1.14 million votes, or more than 24%. Businessman Manuel Baldizón, 45, was running neck and neck with former first lady Sandra Torres, 59, with 19.41% and 19.25% of the vote, respectively, according to Guatemala’s electoral tribunal. Most votes have been counted and final results of the first round are expected soon.
A former television comic is heading for a runoff with either a wealthy businessman or a former first lady in voting for Guatemala’s next president, days after the Central American country’s leader resigned over a corruption scandal. With more than 96% of polling stations reporting, comedian Jimmy Morales, who has never held elective office, was leading with 24% of the vote. Businessman and longtime politician Manuel Baldizón and former first lady Sandra Torres were in a tie, each with about 19.4%. Baldizón led Torres by less than 800 votes among nearly five million votes cast. The top two finishers in the field of 14 will advance to a runoff to be held on 25 October. Analyst Christians Castillo said Morales’s surprising performance was a sign of voter discontent, “a vote of punishment” against more traditional candidates. Electoral officials estimated a nearly 80% turnout.
A former television comic was heading for a runoff with either a wealthy businessman or a former first lady in voting for Guatemala’s next president, days after the Central American nation’s leader resigned over a corruption scandal. With about 79 percent of polling stations reporting early Monday, comedian Jimmy Morales, who has never held elective office, was leading with 26 percent of the vote. He was followed by businessman and longtime politician Manuel Baldizon, with 18.5 percent, and ex-first lady Sandra Torres, with 17.7 percent. Assuming no candidate in the field of 14 gets a majority, the top two finishers advance to a runoff to be held Oct. 25. “The people are showing that they do not want a group like that for the future,” Morales said, referring to Baldizon’s LIDER party.
Guatemala: President quits, jailed pending hearing on corruption charges days before election | Reuters
Guatemala’s Otto Perez resigned as president and was jailed on Thursday while a judge weighs charging him in a corruption scandal that gutted his government and plunged the country into a political crisis days before a presidential election. In an emergency session, Congress approved Perez’s resignation after the retired general quit overnight. Former vice president Alejandro Maldonado was sworn in as president to fill out the remaining months of Perez’s term. Tens of thousands of protesters had flooded the streets of the capital and other cities in recent weeks, calling for Perez to step down over allegations he was involved in a customs racket. Celebrations over Perez’s resignation erupted in a plaza of the capital on Thursday, as the country prepared for presidential and congressional elections on Sunday.
A hostile and dangerous atmosphere is being created to thwart journalism in Guatemala ahead of elections, the Guatemalan Journalists Association, or APG, has warned. Perpetrators hope to curb access to information and discredit journalists and columnists, the APG said in a Jan. 21 statement by its Press Freedom Committee. As examples, the APG mentioned the cases of Juan Luis Font, editor of the weekly magazine Contrapoder, Spanish journalist Pedro Trujillo, a columnist with the morning daily Prensa Libre, and José Rubén Zamora, president of the daily El Periódico. Reporting on the communiqué, Agence France Presse pointed out that Font and Trujillo have been criminally charged after criticizing Manuel Baldizón, a presidential hopeful in the September elections and a favorite in opinion polls. Baldizón seeks the presidential nomination of the center-right Libertad Democrática Renovada party, which he founded in 2010.
Guatemala: OAS notes high turnout in Guatemala elections; expresses concern over slow delivery of results | Caribbean News Now
The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said on Monday that “beyond the difficulties and problems, the Guatemalan people have been able to express their will. We hope that the runoff election is carried out in a climate of peace and cooperation between the different sectors of the country.”
The OAS Electoral Observation Mission (EOM/OAS), headed by former Ambassador Jose Octavio Bordon, noted the punctual opening of polling locations by the designated poll workers. It also stressed the high level of participation by Guatemalan citizens who had significant access to helpful voter information, ultimately facilitating the electoral process.
The two top candidates in Guatemala’s presidential race are headed for a runoff after tallies Monday revealed neither had secured enough votes to win the election. Otto Perez Molina, a retired army general who pledged to take a tough stand on crime, garnered the most votes in Sunday’s elections.
With almost all of the ballots counted Monday night, Perez Molina had 36% of votes — far short of the more than 50% needed to win outright. His closest competitor, businessman Manuel Baldizon, had 23% of votes, said Guatemala’s election authority.
Observers from the Organization of American States criticized Guatemalan election officials’ apparent disorganization and slow vote-counting after Sunday’s election, the state-run AGN news agency reported. The watchdogs said they hoped the process would improve in the second round of voting, scheduled for November 6.
At least 66 of Guatemala”s 333 cities are at risk for violence during Sunday”s presidential elections, the Human Rights Attorney”s Office (PDH) alerted. The PDH created a risk map to mark the regions where which problems could arise during the elections, identifying 17 of the country’s 22 departments, most of them indigenous populations.
Conflicts between communities and security forces, drug trafficking and changes to the electoral rolls were the main sourcs of conflict. Authorities presented a security plan to be implemented Friday which includes the protection of polling places and infrastructure, such as bridges and electricity towers, as well as citizen surveillance.
Ballot counting is under way following Guatemala’s presidential election with Otto Perez, a retired general from the right-wing Patriot Party, holding an early lead, according to preliminary results. But with candidates needing more than 50 per cent of ballots to avoid a runoff, the election looked certain to be heading for a second round later in the year.
Otto Perez Manila, 60, who promises to send troops to the streets to fight criminal gangs, had received 37 per cent support with more than 60 per cent of ballots counted by 9.34GMT. This was still well shy of the 50 per cent needed for an outright first-round victory.
It is estimated that 38 people have died so far in the run-up to the Guatemalan 2011 general elections, an even higher number than was recorded during 2007 contest. The head of Guatemalan Civil Rights Office (Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos) has described the current level of violence as “alarming,” and likely to worsen over the coming month, prior to the September 11 vote. An advisor to the presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina, who is currently tipped as the favourite to win, was also gunned down recently, along with his son.
According to Guatemalan NGO, Mirador Electoral, the pre-election period presents “high levels of danger” in at least 24 of the country’s 333 municipalities, due to the presence of criminal groups. As reported by Insight Crime, Mexican criminal gangs such as the Zetas have been stepping up their presence in Guatemala, which could explain the higher level of pre-election violence this year.
Guatemala’s former first lady, who divorced the sitting president in order to run herself for the top post, had her candidacy rejected by the country’s electoral tribunal Wednesday.
The decision is a setback for Sandra Torres, who announced her intention to run for president in March, but had been dogged by critics who called her candidacy illegitimate because of a constitutional article that bars relatives of the president from seeking the high office.
To get around this law, Torres split from her husband, President Alvaro Colom. Many called the divorce a sham and many individuals, organizations and political parties filed motions to block it, but a judge allowed it.