Record High Voter Turnout during Guatemala Run-off Election
On Sunday, November 6, Guatemala held the second round of its presidential election. The run-off came down to Otto Pérez Perez Molina, a retired army general from the Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota, PP), and Manuel Baldizon, a businessman from the Renewed Democratic Liberty Party (Libertad Democrática Renovada, Lider).
With early results showing a win for Perez, Max Zaldivar, IFES Chief of Party in Guatemala, answered a few questions about the election.
Question: How was the turnout for the second round of the election?
Answer: Turnout was 60.82 percent, a historic high. This level of turnout was significant, especially considering the poor participation in previous run-off elections in Guatemala.
Q: How was the mood around the election?
A: The mood was very good; the country’s civic spirit was palpable. There was also a high degree of tolerance, which was epitomized by the fact that the losing party readily accepted the election results.
Q: What can you tell us about the voters with disabilities and those who don’t speak Spanish — how were their overall experiences?
A: It was gratifying to see the efforts of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE), Guatemala’s electoral commission, develop and guarantee the participation of people with disabilities in this run-off. Most of the measures, such as ramps and braille ballots, had already been implemented during the first round of elections, but a new radio and TV campaign informed the public of those existing measures before the run-off, and that had an impact. It reminded Guatemalans that the TSE included ramps for wheelchairs and the elderly in major voting centers in Guatemala City, specially trained volunteers to attend to voters with disabilities, braille ballots for the blind and language translation. In addition, the speeches made by the chairwoman of the TSE on Election Day were translated into Quiche for voters who speak only that language.
Q: There were reports of election-related violence during the first round of elections in September. What was the experience with election violence this time around?
A: Things went much more smoothly this time around, mostly thanks to more effective coordination among the TSE, the National Police and the Armed Forces. No incidents of violence were reported during Election Day or after. Only minor incidents were reported the day before the election, like the arrests of people distributing pamphlets with offensive and incriminating remarks about one of the presidential candidates. This action is classified as a felony in Guatemala’s electoral law.
Q: When will final results be available?
A: The TSE has to conduct an internal election results audit before the final announcement. The law gives the TSE 10 days after the run-off to render the official and validated results report. However, the final results will not differ much from the preliminary report, which was announced after 100 percent of the votes were counted. As of November 7, the preliminary results indicate the Patriotic Party has 2,300, 874 votes, or 53.74 percent, and Lider has 1,980,819 votes, or 46.26 percent.
Q: When will the new president be sworn in?
A: The new president and vice president will be sworn in on January 14. However, the first step is for the TSE to give them official credential letters stating that they have been elected president and vice president of Guatemala during a ceremony that will likely take place in late November or early December.