Editorial: A Test for Guatemala

Pérez Molina's destitution is in the past, now comes the second electoral round

Editorial: A Test for Guatemala
Maya Batres (i) muestra su papeleta electoral en las elecciones presidenciales simbólicas de la comunidad guatemalteca en Estados Unidos, en Los Ángeles, California
Foto: EFE / EFE

Guatemala is at a crossroads. The people’s indignation, pent up over the course of several months, led to the downfall of now former constitutional president Otto Pérez-Molina for his suspected role in a customs fraud scandal. Two days later, the generalized frustration translated into a punishment vote against the country’s political establishment that ended with unknown politician Jimmy Morales on top.

The results of last Sunday’s election, held under the dark shadow cast by Pérez-Molina’s removal from office, are expected to be made public tomorrow. It is known that Morales, a comedian and Evangelist theologian from the Frente de Convergencia Nacional, is on first place with 23.85% of the votes, followed by ex-First Lady Sandra Torres from Unidad Nacional de Esperanza , who has 19.74%, and entrepreneur Manuel Baldizón from the Libertad Democrática Renovada party, with 19.65%.

The results are considered to be an absolute defeat for Baldizón, who was in the lead in opinion polls. He and his fellow party members became suspects in the scandal that ended Pérez-Molina’s term. Today, Baldizón is claiming electoral fraud, a complaint that will surely not go much further.

That means that on October 25th, when the second round of voting occurs, Guatemalans will be able to choose between different options. On the one side, they have Morales, a conservative political neophyte who – observers say – has the support of the right-winged military counterinsurgency, evangelist sectors and an entrepreneurial class who have repudiated the people’s demonstrations. On the other, Torres, who lost her chance at the presidency before and now returns with a social-democratic message focused on social issues, just like ex-husband Álvaro Colom did during his government.

The Guatemalan people showed exemplary political maturity in dealing with corruption at the presidential level. However, there still a long way to go. It remains to be seen if the popular discontent toward politicians that took an entertainer like Morales to a partial victory will give way to a discerning vote the second time around, especially now that Baldizón is no longer on the ballot. That is the test the Guatemalan democracy still needs to pass.