On Sunday, June 16, Guatemala will hold its first round of general elections. Guatemalans will vote to renew all 160 seats in the unicameral legislature, 20 seats in the Central American Parliament, local posts in each of the country’s 340 municipalities, and elect a new president. If no presidential candidate receives an absolute majority—something that hasn’t happened since 1985—a second round is scheduled to take place on August 11.
As Lucas Perelló notes in his article for Global Americans, this election reflects many of Guatemala’s challenges. Widespread corruption and an unpopular president with authoritarian tendencies have resulted in an overcrowded presidential race filled with mostly unknown hopefuls. Even with the former top two candidates barred from running—Zury Ríos for her familial ties to ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, and Thelma Aldana for what appear to be politically motivated corruption charges—voters will have to decide between 18 candidates.
But the deeply rooted corruption in the country has also targeted other presidential hopefuls. In April 2019, Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana from the center-right National Change Union was arrested for allegedly making a deal with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel to help fund his campaign and murder his rivals. And on May 6, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office announced it would be investigating Estuardo Ernesto Galdámez Juárez, presidential candidate from the ruling National Convergence Front, for his alleged role in the buyout of votes from more than 60 congressmen between 2012 and 2015.
Among the remaining candidates, none seem to be resonating with voters. Surprisingly, no candidate has taken a strong anti-corruption stance even though Guatemalans have ranked government corruption as the country’s most prevalent problem. The top two candidates with a shot at winning the presidency are Sandra Torres with 21 percent of the vote, and Alejandro Giammettei with nine percent of the vote. As Alessia Noboa and Sofia Mateu-Gelabert note, “uncertainty is the only certainty ahead of Guatemala’s presidential election.”