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Guatemala - 2007 Election

In early December 2006, the government and the UN agreed to the creation of the joint International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). On August 1, 2007, the Guatemalan Congress approved the agreement, and on January 11, 2008, Guatemala and the United Nations inaugurated the work of CICIG. An earlier Guatemala-UN agreement was ruled unconstitutional in 2004 before it was ratified by the Guatemalan Congress. In July 2009, the Guatemalan Congress approved an extension of CICIGs mandate to September 4, 2011. The UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) ceased its 10-year project of monitoring peace accord implementation and human rights problems in November 2004 with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declaring Guatemala had made "enormous progress in managing the country's problems through dialogue and institutions".

The latest Vox Latina poll, released October 31, showed center-right Partido Patriota's Otto Perez Molina leading center-left UNE presidential candidate Alvaro Colom by 53% to 47%. In contrast, a Borge & Asociados poll released October 29 shows Colom leading by 39.4% to 35.1%. The October 12 Borge & Asociados poll showed Perez Molina leading Colom by 39.8% to 37.3%. An October 8 Demoscopia poll showed Perez Molina leading Colom by 53.8% to 46.2% of valid responses, and a recent Noguera poll showed Perez Molina leading Colom 39% to 36%.

The closing phase of the presidential campaign was characterized by mudslinging by both candidates. Colom and Perez Molina have each accused the other of knowingly accepting campaign contributions from narcotraffickers, though neither has provided evidence. Perez Molina canceled several final, scheduled debates. In their final campaign appearances, Perez Molina has continued to maintain his focus on improving security, and Colom has stuck with his message of social development and inclusion.

The Sunday, Nov. 4 election follows a national holiday on Thursday, November 1. Some Guatemalans will take Friday, Nov. 2 off to make for a four-day vacation weekend. Most observers agreed that those who can afford to take vacation are more likely to vote for Perez Molina, so the timing is prejudicial to him. However, many also believe that, while turnout will fall across the board from the first round (from 60% to perhaps the low 50's) because there are almost no mayoral or congressional elections during the second round, turnout will fall most in rural areas. This is because rural people historically taken a keen interest in the mayoral races that directly affect their interests, but tend to perceive the presidency as distant and less relevant to their lives. This would be prejudicial to Colom.

In comparison to the lead-up to the Sept. 9 first-round election, assaults on, and murders of, political activists have diminished ahead of the second round. Partido Patriota security policy analyst Jorge Herrera told poloffs October 5 that this was because there are no local races in October 5 that this was because there are no local races in the second round, so passions have cooled. The few violent incidents during the first round mostly were linked to mayors' use of municipal funds, handing out of jobs, or other disputes over municipal resources.

Congressional, municipal, and first-round presidential elections took place on September 9, 2007. The final round of presidential elections took place on November 4, 2007. lvaro Colom of the National Unity for Hope (UNE) party won the November 4, 2007 presidential election against retired General Otto Perez Molina with 52.8% of the vote versus 47.2%.

Center-left UNE's Alvaro Colom won the Nov. 4 Guatemalan presidential runoff election with 52.83% of the vote. Center-right Partido Patriota's Otto Perez Molina received 47.17%. Colom declared victory, and Perez Molina acknowledged defeat in a concession speech, announcing that he intends to run again for the presidency in 2011. The results tracked closely with national observer NGO Mirador Electoral's quick count. Turnout, at 47%, was lower than expected. There was no electoral violence, and only a few, so far unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud. The weather was clear throughout most of the country. The Embassy, OAS, and EU observed the election, in addition to national observer groups.

Engineer and businessman lvaro Colom assumed office on 14 January 2008. Inauguration for the new president and the new Congress took place on January 14, 2008. Colom inherited a country with some of the worlds highest rates of violent crime, poverty and child malnutrition. His campaign centred around promises to improve healthcare, education, security and rural development. This was well-received in the countryside and among the indigena groups that make up 40% of the population. It proved decisive in the election, making Colom the first democratically elected President to come to power without taking the capital, Guatemala City. But his lack of a working legislative majority coupled with internal divisions in his own Party, have hampered his ability to pass legislation. Efforts to increase the tax base - one of the worlds lowest - to implement his social development programme face stiff opposition from the business community and right-wing parties in Congress.

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