September 26, 2023

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Concerns about democracy in Guatemala after leading party suspended |  Election news

Concerns about democracy in Guatemala after leading party suspended | Election news

Guatemala City, Guatemala – Critics fear Guatemala’s fragile democracy is at risk after the country’s attorney general successfully sought the suspension of one of two political parties in the August presidential runoff.

“The attorney general’s office will not rest until our democracy is torn apart,” said Marielos Chang, an independent Guatemalan political analyst, echoing widespread concerns about election interference.

The suspension was made on Wednesday night, two and a half weeks after the progressive seed movement unexpectedly emerged as one of two winners in the first round of voting.

The results mean her candidate, Bernardo Arevalo, will face Sandra Torres of the right-wing National Unity of Hope party on August 20.

Presidential candidate of the Seyyed Bernardo Arevalo during a press conference on July 12, 2023, just hours before his party was suspended. [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

Almost immediately, however, Arevalo’s political opponents objected to the election results. And on Wednesday, hours after the electoral authority certified the vote, his party was suspended and its legal powers to propaganda and organize revoked.

For observers like Zhang, the move was nothing less than “a direct attack on our political system.”

“Their actions will seek to stop the party’s participation in the second round, and endanger our democracy,” she said.

Torres herself announced she would suspend her campaign in protest of Wednesday’s measures, and called for a level playing field as the second round of voting approaches.

Torres said: “We want to show our solidarity with the voters of Cid’s party, as well as with those who went out to vote.” As a candidate, I want to compete under equal conditions.

By Thursday afternoon, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court had heard the matter, and issued an injunction against Cid’s suspension.

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NUH presidential candidate Sandra Torres has announced that she will stop campaigning after her rival’s party was suspended. [Guatemala Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza handout/Reuters]

Questions of legality

The case against the Seed Movement is being led by Rafael Korocis, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity.

In a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Korušić accused of impropriety in the 5,000 signatures the Seed Movement collected when it was formed as a political organisation.

On Thursday morning, Curruchiche’s president and his political ally, Attorney General María Consuelo Porras, ordered a raid on the offices of Guatemala’s electoral authority to confiscate ballot papers. A second raid was expected on the headquarters of the Seed Movement.

Political and constitutional law analysts consulted by Al Jazeera described these measures as illegal.

Rafael Korocic, head of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity, suspended the Seed movement due to alleged signature irregularities. [File: Moises Castillo/AP Photo]

They noted that the order against the Cid movement violated Article 92 of Guatemala’s Political Parties and Elections Law, which governs the electoral process and political parties. The article says that a political party cannot be suspended during an election.

“We are witnessing a technical revolution,” Luis Mack, a Guatemalan political analyst and professor, told Al Jazeera. “There is a clear and open attempt to change the popular will expressed at the ballot box.”

Similarly, the head of Guatemala’s electoral authority, Erna Palencia, called Thursday’s raid an “invasion”. She told reporters that she had not been informed in advance of Syed’s suspension.

President of the Supreme Court of Elections Irma Palencia leaves a press conference in Guatemala City on July 12, 2023 [Wilder Lopez/AP Photo]

Doubts about the integrity of the elections

The suspension and the raid are the latest twists in an already turbulent presidential race.

Prior to the first round on 25 June, three candidates were disqualified due to alleged problems with their papers.

Following the vote, the Constitutional Court postponed the certification of the results so that a review of the disputed papers could take place. The review had been requested by 10 political parties, including the National Union Party.

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The court’s examination, which ended on July 6, eventually found minor voting irregularities.

Protesters walk towards the Electoral Council building during a student demonstration on July 8, 2023 [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

But Curruchiche’s actions have renewed scrutiny of the Seeds movement, which has campaigned on an anti-corruption platform.

Both Kuroshichi and Boras are accused of corruption. In 2022, the US State Department Boras punished to obstruct anti-corruption investigations “to protect its political allies and gain undue political support”.

In the meantime , was denounced For “disrupting high-profile corruption cases against government officials and filing apparently false claims” against the lawyers leading those investigations.

A police officer from the Public Prosecutor’s Office raids the headquarters of the Electoral Authority in Guatemala on July 13, 2023 [Moises Castillo/AP Photo]

The international community is responding

the we She has since joined other members of the international community in expressing concern about the suspension of the Seeds Party.

the European Union This week’s actions, he said, threaten “one of the fundamental foundations of democracy: respect for the popular will expressed at the ballot box.”

The Organization of American States, meanwhile, Repeat his “deep concern” about elections. It called on Guatemala to abide by its electoral laws, which prohibit the suspension of parties in the midst of elections.

“There is a lot of concern in the international community,” said Ana Maria Mendez, director of the Central America bureau in the Washington office for Latin America, a research and advocacy group.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office confiscates documents related to the counting of votes during a raid on the headquarters of the Electoral Authority in Guatemala on July 13, 2023. [Moises Castillo/AP Photo]

“It is necessary to respect the constitutional order in Guatemala and to respect the authority of the Supreme Electoral Council with regard to elections,” she told Al Jazeera. “This is an unprecedented crisis in Guatemala.”

Mendez said it was a positive sign that many sectors of society, including businesses, were protesting the suspension of the Seeds Party. On Thursday, for example, prof Leading Business Council He issued a press release calling on the electoral authority to press for strict adherence to the law.

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But on the other hand, we also see the prosecutor’s office [being] Increasingly authoritarian, acting outside the law with hidden interests.