“Guatemalans will head to the polls to vote for president on June 25 at a time of real peril for the country’s democracy. From blocking candidates from participating in the election to sentencing one of the country’s most prominent journalists to four years in prison, the precarious state of Guatemala’s political institutions demonstrates just how important the rule of law is to maintaining a healthy democracy.
“With 22 candidates competing, a run-off on Aug. 20 is a near certainty, but three candidates have emerged as the leading contenders: Sandra Torres, the liberal candidate and ex-wife of the late President Alvaro Colom; Edmond Mulet, the centrist candidate and a former diplomat; and Zury Rios, the conservative candidate and former congresswoman and daughter of the late General Efrain Rios Montt.
“The process by which candidates were prevented from participating offers important insights into how Guatemala’s political process has become corrupted. When a little-known populist presidential candidate, Carlos Pineda, took the lead in recent polls, a rival party filed a motion with Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to have Pineda’s party canceled. The legal maneuver, which the Constitutional Court upheld, was initiated by two-time presidential candidate Manual Baldizon, whose political career was interrupted by a stint in a U.S. prison for conspiring to launder money. Baldizon returned to Guatemala last year to run for Congress. …”Top