Guatemala held the first round of its presidential election on Sunday, resulting in more “null” votes than the total for any single candidate.
The Central American nation is now slated to hold a runoff presidential election on August 20 between the top two candidates after “null”: Former First Lady Sandra Torres and outsider Bernardo Arevalo, both leftists. The winner will succeed incumbent hardline conservative President Alejandro Giammattei after his term ends next year.
Sunday’s general election saw over 20 candidates competing for the top office. As no candidate obtained the required 50-percent-plus-one of the vote to win in the first round, the nation’s election rules require a second election between the two most popular options.
The results published by Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) at press time show that, with 98.19 percent of the votes tallied, Sandra Torres and her center-left National Unity of Hope (UNE) party obtained 15.78 percent of the votes. Outsider leftist candidate Bernardo Arévalo of the Semilla Movement party came in second place with 11.8 percent. Manuel Conde Orellana of the ruling conservative Let’s Go for a Different Guatemala (VAMOS) party trailed in third place with 7.8 percent of the votes.
Out of the nearly 5.5 million votes cast, roughly seven percent were blank votes, and 17.38 percent were null votes. The percentage of null votes in Sunday’s presidential election was greater than the percentage of votes that each of the 22 competing parties obtained individually. The voter turnout rate was tallied at 59.99 percent.
Guatemala’s Electoral and Political Parties Law defines a “null” vote as any ballot where the voter’s intention cannot be clearly determined, was erroneously marked (such as marking more than one candidate and/or party in a single-choice election), or when the ballot contains “modifications, expressions, signs or figures foreign to the process.” A “blank” vote is defined as any ballot cast where no option was selected.
The nation’s Electoral law also states that if the amount of null votes is greater than the total amount of validly cast votes, then the nation’s top electoral court must hold another election.
According to the TSE, the results on early Monday morning were “practically definitive.”
Sandra Torres was the First Lady of Guatemala from 2008 to 2011 when she divorced then-President Álvaro Colom Caballeros (2008-2012). This election marks the 67-year-old politician’s third attempt at the presidency after losing both the 2019 and 2015 presidential runoff elections. She lost to Giammattei, who obtained 57.95 percent of the votes in 2019.
“We’re going to win, against whoever,” she asserted during a conference held in the early hours of Monday morning.
Torres was indicted by the Guatemalan Prosecutor’s Office in 2019 as part of a corruption investigation in which she was accused of allowing her UNE party to receive illegal campaign contributions totaling approximately $700,000 in 2015. She was placed in pre-trial detention until early 2020 when she was transferred to house arrest.
In November, a judge ordered the closure of all criminal proceedings against Torres, asserting that insufficient evidence existed against her to keep the case open.
Bernardo Arévalo of the Semilla Movement was the outsider surprise during Sunday’s elections, as none of the polls released during the campaign had him obtaining more than three percent of the votes.
Arévalo is a socialist nicknamed “Uncle Bernie” in reference to both his name and his resemblance to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He is the son of former President Juan José Arévalo (1945-1951), the country’s first democratically elected president. He is currently a member of the Guatemalan Congress and previously served as ambassador to Spain and deputy foreign minister.
In a press conference held after the initial results were published, Arévalo ensured his voters that neither he nor his party “will let [them] down.”
The election result will inevitably shift Guatemala to the left, likely signaling a significant shift in the country’s foreign policy. Giammattei, the current president, had endeavored to bring his country closer to America, condemned the leftist authoritarian regimes in the region, and became the first Latin American president to embark upon a solidarity visit to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky following Russia’s invasion of that country. The Russian government is a major funder and supporter of Latin America’s communist regimes.
Giammattei’s attempts to bring Guatemala in line with Washington did not limit his criticism of leftist American President Joe Biden. Last year, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Giammattei suggested that Biden’s decision to negotiate oil with Venezuela’s socialist Maduro regime may have been negatively impacting law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking.
Watch: Guatemalan President Suggests Biden Letting Drugs In from Venezuela to “Negotiate Oil”
Matt Perdie / Breitbart News
“The fault is here [in the United States] and I will explain why: 50 percent of the drugs consumed in the world are consumed here,” Giammattei said. “The pushers in the streets selling drugs, where does that money end up? In the banks here.”
“When we see every day the planes [with drug shipments] come down in Venezuela – which, it is known that in Venezuela is where the planes come down; which, there are negotiations with Maduro now,” he continued, “I hope they negotiate so that planes don’t leave with drugs from there – but 95 percent of the planes land in Venezuela and they come empty.”
In the same interview, Giammattei fiercely stated that he would never consider buying oil from socialist Venezuela, as it would be akin to “nourishing the devil” after reports at the time indicated that the Biden Administration was considering buying oil from the Maduro regime.
Watch — President of Guatemala: Buying Oil from Venezuela Is “Nourishing the Devil”
Matt Perdie / Breitbart News
“The effort of the United States to combat drugs has to begin with campaigns here [in America] and with partners there [in South America], us, working so that it doesn’t happen,” Giammattei told Breitbart News. “Why, if we know where the [drug trafficking] planes leave from, why has the United States done nothing to stop planes from leaving from Venezuela? Ah! They are negotiating oil.”
Guatemala’s constitution states that a president and vice president can only be elected to serve for a single four-year period. Article 187 explicitly prohibits anyone that has served as president from being reelected and punishes by law anyone that seeks either reelection or the extension of its current term, immediately considering the mandate intended to be exercised shall be null and void.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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