LatinNews Daily - 21 August 2023

GUATEMALA: Arévalo sweeps to victory as voters opt for change

On 20 August Guatemala’s anti-corruption candidate, Bernardo Arévalo, won the second round of presidential elections by a landslide against establishment figure Sandra Torres.


Although President Alejandro Giammattei congratulated Arévalo on his victory, Torres is yet to do so. Doubts are likely to persist until Arévalo has been formally proclaimed president-elect and perhaps even until he takes office next January given the attempts to block him (and previous reform-minded candidates) from running and the political persecution of his progressive and left-leaning Movimiento Semilla party by the heavily politicised and discredited attorney general’s office. Assuming his triumph is confirmed and he is sworn-in on 14 January 2024, Arévalo will face a daunting task to try and meet the high expectations of a voting public that has entrusted him to rescue Guatemalan democracy from a corrupt and predatory political and judicial elite that will control most of the other levers of power.

  • Arévalo won 58.01% of the vote to 37.24% for Torres. He won by an emphatic margin in urban centres, taking a resounding 75% of the vote, for instance, in the department of Guatemala. Torres won in just five of the country’s 22 departments in the north and north-east of Guatemala.
  • The scale of Arévalo’s victory means there can be no question that he won, as the president of the supreme electoral tribunal (TSE), Irma Palencia, acknowledged. There was no immediate concession, however, from Torres or her party, the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE), which said it would adopt “a definitive position when the results are clarified with total transparency”.
  • Turnout was about 45% and Arévalo was quick to thank all those voters who participated in the elections which he said was “an act of defence of democracy [which] at this time is a show of courage”. The big question is how he intends to proceed when he takes office, especially given the present leadership of the attorney general’s office. Rafael Curruchiche, the discredited head of Guatemala’s special anti-impunity unit (Feci) of the attorney general’s office, is still determinedly pursuing members of Semilla for alleged electoral crimes.
  • Arévalo highlighted his determination to deliver on his main electoral promise. “This victory is for the people and together we will fight against corruption,” Arévalo said, while promising to govern for all Guatemalans. Movimiento Semilla will have 23 seats in the 160-seat legislative assembly, but a majority of seats will be held by representatives of the venal political elite that has been the target of his rhetorical attacks on corruption. This is likely to make advancing his legislative agenda fraught with difficulty and could frustrate voters who were expecting rapid change.

Looking Ahead: If upon taking office the legislature proves to be obstructionist it is possible that Arévalo will resort to using his popularity to try and reach above the heads of legislators directly to the public, calling for street protests to pressure congress into change. But at present he is sounding a conciliatory note and could seek to find common cause with some former adversaries with whom he has political differences but shares a commitment to recovering the country’s institutional integrity.

Intelligence Research Ltd.
167-169 Great Portland Street,
5th floor,
London, W1W 5PF - UK
Phone : +44 (0) 203 695 2790
You may contact us via our online contact form
Copyright © 2022 Intelligence Research Ltd. All rights reserved.