A candidate running on an anti-corruption platform unexpectedly overtook the former first lady. The following article was published in the September-October 2023 issue of NewsNotes.
Bernardo Arevalo of the Semilla party took sixty percent of the vote in the run-off election on Sunday, August 20. The dark horse candidate who ran on an anti-corruption platform came in a close second in the previous round of voting, which we covered in the July-August 2023 issue of NewsNotes.
The win came despite brazen attempts by some judges and government officials to suspend and disqualify the candidacy in court. On July 13, armed and masked police raided the independent Electoral Tribunal’s Citizen Registry Office as part of a investigatory probe—under the direction of an attorney general on the U.S. State Departments’ list of Undemocratic and Corrupt Actors. The attorney general made clear her intentions to criminally target Semilla Party officials.
In response, thousands took to the streets to protest, and the opposition candidate briefly suspended her campaign in solidarity. European Union members and the House and Senate Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committees made public statements condemning the undemocratic actions. Thankfully, the election took place without incident.
What now remains is for the country to see the peaceful transfer of power from the current president to the new on January 14. While the margin of victory (over twenty percent) is too large for the current government officials to easily overturn, the international community will still need to be vigilant against threats to the legal process. President Biden congratulated Bernardo Arevalo as have other world leaders, but the electoral tribunal has not yet certified the results.
For the Semilla Party, the difficulties have just begun. The time between an election upset and the transfer of power are the most fragile for a democracy. Afterwards, President Bernardo Arevalo will face both an oppositional legislature and the pressure to justify his candidacy with tangible achievements.
Image of protesters outside the Guatemalan embassy in Washington D.C.