Guatemala’s presidential runoff on August 20 will feature two prominent candidates vying for the presidency – former first lady Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo, the son of a former president. The election has been marked by political turbulence, allegations of government interference, and fears of democratic backsliding.
In the first round of voting in June, Arévalo surprised many by finishing second, positioning himself as the anti-corruption candidate in a country plagued by graft and impunity. Meanwhile, Torres is viewed as the continuity candidate for the political establishment. The race has been marred by disenchantment with the electoral system, leading to a high number of blank or invalid votes and abstentions. Additionally, the disqualification of opposition candidates further exacerbated public frustration.
One of the key factors influencing the election is the dissolution of a UN-backed anti-corruption commission in 2019, which accelerated corruption and impunity among the political class. Arévalo faced attempts to disqualify him from the race, but international pressure allowed him to participate in the first round.
Torres has pledged to expand social programs and tackle crime as part of her agenda, while Arévalo’s focus is on combating corruption and pork barrel spending. He has even outlined a 100-day plan that includes bringing back journalists, judges, and prosecutors who fled the country after the dissolution of the anti-corruption commission.
Arévalo has managed to garner support from Guatemala’s business elite, with some contributing financially to his campaign. However, even if he were to win the presidency, Congress is expected to be largely controlled by the establishment parties, posing challenges for his anti-corruption agenda.
The outcome of the presidential runoff on August 20 will have significant implications for Guatemala’s future path. Will the country continue down the familiar road of political continuity, or will it choose a new direction in the fight against corruption and impunity? Only time will tell.