Guatemalans voted for a new president Sunday following an electoral process that generated widespread disillusion and distrust, and came as tens of thousands were fleeing poverty and gang violence to seek a new life in the United States.
Voters are choosing between 19 candidates for a four-year presidential term that begins in January 2020. The winner needs an absolute majority, making an August runoff between the two top vote-getters likely.
More than 8.1 million citizens of the Central American nation will also be eligible to vote for the vice president, congressional representatives and mayors.
CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports from Guatemala City.
The top five candidates for president are: former first lady Sandra Torres of the National Unity and Hope party, who is expected to finish first but without enough votes to win in the first round; former prison director and four-time presidential candidate Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla; businessman Roberto Arzú; lawyer and journalist Edmond Auguste Mulet Lesieur; and Thelma Cabrera, the only indigenous candidate.
But the campaign season has been most noticeably marked by a chaotic flurry of court rulings, shenanigans, illegal party-switching and allegations of malfeasance that torpedoed the runs of two of the three front-runners, including Chief Prosecutor Thelma Aldana.
Aldana gained international renown for leading crusading anti-corruption investigations in tandem with a U.N.-backed anti-graft commission operating in Guatemala, but was booted from the race on the grounds that she lacked a document certifying that she didn’t have any outstanding accounts from her time overseeing a public budget as prosecutor.
Outgoing President Jimmy Morales, who is barred from seeking re-election, took office in 2016 promising to root out corruption after his predecessor was brought down by a probe led by the U.N.’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG. But Morales soon became a target of CICIG himself for alleged campaign finance violations, starting a bitter dispute with the agency in which he terminated its mandate.
Three of the last four elected presidents have been arrested post-presidency on charges of corruption.
Story by The Associated Press with additional information from CGTN.