Guatemala Elections: Campaigning Begins Amid Public Distrust

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Guatemala City — Campaigning began in earnest last month for Guatemala’s general elections, with political messaging filling the streets, local broadcasts and social media.

But less than three months before the June 25 vote, concerns are mounting among national and international observers over the integrity of the process.

“There is a lot of distrust in the environment around the election,” Gabriela Carrera, a political science professor at Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala City, told Al Jazeera. “This is the result of the incapacity of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal … combined with a series of arbitrary decisions that the magistrates have been taking.”

At least 30 political parties are set to contest the upcoming elections, with more than 22,000 candidates registered to run for the presidency, congress, regional parliament and councils across the country. But Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which governs elections, has blocked several opposition candidates from running on “dubious grounds”, according to Human Rights Watch. Observers say this raises a red flag.

“The arbitrary blocking of candidates because they represent a danger to the [political] establishment is serious,” Ana Maria Mendez Dardon, the Central America director for the Washington Office on Latin America, told Al Jazeera. “It has also brought little credibility to the institutions that have to ensure the integrity of the [electoral] process.”

A spokesperson for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal told Al Jazeera that the body was following constitutional norms, noting that the cases in question are complex.

The blocked candidates include leftist Indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera, who earned fourth place in the 2019 presidential election, and Roberto Arzu of the right-wing Podemos party. Cabrera was blocked over an alleged issue related to a payment received by her running mate while he was ombudsperson, while Arzu was barred for allegedly campaigning ahead of the legal period.

Cabrera and her supporters have protested her exclusion since February. Meanwhile, a Guatemalan prosecutor is seeking to lift the immunity of another presidential candidate, Edmond Mulet, after he called for an investigation into a judge who ordered a probe of nine journalists from El Periodico newspaper. Candidates usually have immunity from prosecution during an election campaign.

Source: aljazeera