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Guatemala - 2019 Election

General elections will be held in Guatemala 16 June 2019 to elect the President and Congress, with a second round of the presidential elections to be held in August if no candidate wins a majority in the first round. Incumbent President Jimmy Morales is constitutionally prohibited from running for a second four-year term.

The President is elected by absolute majority vote through a two-round system to serve a 4-year term. In the Congress of the Republic (Congreso de la Republica) 158 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve 4-year terms. Of the 158 members, 127 are departmental-level representatives selected through 22 departmental lists; 31 are national-level representatives selected in one, nationwide district. Votes are tabulated using the D'Hondt method.

By July 2018 at least 10 political parties had already shown their cards and begun to mention who could be the next presidential candidates for the 2019 electoral contest. There were four women and six men who are mentioned as possible candidates. At that time there were 25 legally registered political parties. Three of them are suspended and the National Front of Convergence party (FCN-Nation) faces a cancellation process, so that there are currently 21 organizations, all authorized to compete in the elections, whose convocation is scheduled for January 2019.

On 12 September 2018 more than 2,000 police and troops blocked off parts of the city center as farmers and students marched for the third day in a row. Thousands of Guatemalan police and soldiers locked down the center of the capital on Wednesday amid protests over the government's move to shutter a UN-backed anti-graft commission that has called for the president's impeachment. In late August, Morales said the country would not renew the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) that had brought down his predecessor and also tried to have Morales impeached. The United Nations has expressed serious concerns about the decision.

Working with Guatemala's attorney general, the CICIG in 2017 sought to prosecute Morales, a former comedian, over illegal financing allegations during his election campaign two years earlier. The government had given the commission a year to exit the country and officials barred the CICIG's head Ivan Velasquez from entering the country. Demonstrators were also protesting two legislative initiatives that lawmakers who back Morales are aiming to pass in the coming days.

The official campaign period for the 16 June 2019 general elections kicked off on 18 March 2019. Of the 27 political parties in the Central American nation, 24 declared presidential candidates. An August 11 presidential runoff is expected. The three individuals expected to lead the presidential race are the runner-up from the previous election, a former attorney general, and the daughter of an ex-dictator who stood trial for genocide. But all three were mired in controversy and legal battles that could exclude them from the ballot.

On 01 April 2019, the electoral tribunal ruled to annul the registration of former Attorney General and Semilla party presidential hopeful Thelma Aldana as a candidate, upholding challenges by political rivals. The major setback came on the heels of a warrant for Aldana's arrest. By law, from the moment candidates are registered they have immunity from prosecution and arrest that can only be stripped through special proceedings. But despite Aldana's initial registration, officials stated that immunity would only come after legal challenges were resolved and that the warrant remained in effect.

Aldana's is not the only candidacy embroiled in court proceedings. The eligibility of Zury Rios, the right-wing Valor party's presidential candidate, will soon be the subject of a final Constitutional Court ruling. Rios is the daughter of Efrain Rios Montt, a former military ruler who was convicted of genocide in 2013. Her eligibility had been in dispute, with the Supreme Court ruling she can run and the Constitutional Court ruling she cannot.

The candidacy of Sandra Torres, the candidate of National Unity of Hope (UNE) party expected to lead the race for president, is currently not the subject of a legal battle but she may end up in court anyway. The UNE was founded as a social-democratic party, but as investigations into government corruption broadened, it has recently occasionally aligned itself with the ruling party and others in Congress. The alliance has been popularly dubbed the "Pact of the Corrupt", accused of conspiring to mutually safeguard immunity from prosecution.

More than eight million Guatemalan voters were expected to elect the countrys next president with a total of 19 candidates competing for the highest office in the land. Opinion polls indicatef that candidate Sandra Torres, running under the banner of the social-democratic National Unity of Hope Party (UNE), is leading the race. Following her is a great number of contenders led by Alejandro Giammattei of the newly created Vamos party, Roberto Arzu of the right-wing Pan-Podemos and Edmundo Mulet of the Guatemalan Humanist Party.

If no candidate achievef an absolute majority in the first-round vote, a runoff is scheduled for August 11 between the two frontrunners.

A huge number of challenges await the winner of Guatemalas presidential election who will need to tackle some of countrys most urgent problems including high poverty rates, political and economic exclusion of the Indigenous population, its massive outflow of migrants to the United States seeking asylum from violence, and above all, the rampant crime and corruption which remain deeply rooted in the political system.

With help from the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an independent body created to look into corruption, the country seemed to be making progress, but when it started uncovering evidence of financial anomalies pointing to President Jimmy Morales, his family and his party, the president turned against it, banning the head of the commission, Colombian jurist and diplomat Ivan Velasquez and prohibiting him from reentering Guatemala. Other issues affecting these elections are the 10 local candidates killed in recent months, most of whom were from opposition parties; four belonging to a party led by Indigenous candidate Thelma Cabreras Movement for the Liberation of People party (MLP).

To help the election process, observers from an Organization of American States (OAS) mission arrived in Guatemala for its 19th electoral observation in the country. The mission carrirf out analysis on key issues such as the electoral process, campaign financing and participation of women, Indigenous groups, and Afro-Guatemalan people. It also met with the presidential candidates, the political parties and civil society groups to gather their comments on the process.

Five presidential candidates were barred from running well into the campaign period, following heated legal battles. Two were frontrunners, including Semilla party presidential candidate Thelma Aldana, a former attorney general disqualified on allegations of corruption, which she denied.

The top five candidate s are: former first lady Sandra Torres of the National Unity and Hope party, who was 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 Arz, lawyer and journalist Edmond Auguste Mulet Lesieur; and Thelma Cabrera, the only indigenous candidate.

Sandra Torres led the crowded field. A businesswoman and former first lady, the National Unity of Hope (UNE) party centrist candidate faces allegations of illegal campaign financing in the 2015 election, but her candidacy confered her immunity from prosecution. Alejandro Giammattei had been polling in second place. The right-wing Vamos candidate and former prisons director spent 10 months in pre-trial detention after being accused of participating in a 2006 massacre of inmates. He was acquitted in 2011.

With 19 candidates in the race for president, and the winner needing an absolute majority, a runoff vote is likely in August. The road to this presidential election has been a chaotic flurry of court rulings and shenanigans, illegal party-switching and allegations of malfeasance that torpedoed the candidacies of two of the to p three candidates.

Three of the last four elected presidents have been arrested post-presidency on charges of corruption. Graft allegations have also targeted current President Jimmy Morales and his inner circle, though he denies wrongdoing and has been protected from prosecution due to his immunity while in office.

A recent poll from CID Gallup Latinoamerica found that nearly a third of Guatemalan adults surveyed believe the election will be plagued by fraud. Another 20 percent said the election's legitimacy would be suspect because so many candidates were kept from running.

Unemployment, violence, corruption, rising costs of living and the shoddy state of the country's highways are among top concerns for the country's electorate. Surging migration has not emerged as a major campaign issue, even as an estimated 1 percent of Guatemala's population of some 16 million people has left the country this year. The Torres campaign is focused on addressing the driving forces of migration with public investment in infrastructure, health, education, and small-scale agriculture in rural areas, the source of much of the current exodus. Arzu hoped for US military bases along the Guatemala-Mexico border and said he would invite the US and Israel to co-manage customs, immigration, ports and airports.

With slightly less than half the ballots counted, former first lady Sandra Torres led all candidates with about 24 percent. Four-time presidential candidate Alejandro Giammattei was in second place with about 15 percent of the vote, followed by journalist Edmond Mulet in third place with 12 percent. Election officials said the large field of presidential candidates was making for a slow count, and that the final results should be known in about two weeks.

Guatemala will hold a vote recount after fraud allegations in the wake of the presidential and legislative elections, the country's Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) announced 20 June 2019. TSE president Julio Solorzano told journalists that he had ordered a recount of certified returns from each ballot box to "clarify disagreements." Speaking at a news conference, Solorzano said the recount would include municipal and congressional elections held in tandem with the presidential vote.

The second round of voting would take place August 11.

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