Progressive Arévalo Wins Guatemala Election

Progressive Arévalo Wins Guatemala Election
Presidential candidate Bernardo Arévalo speaks during a press conference after preliminary results showed him the victor in a presidential run-off election in Guatemala City on Aug. 20, 2023. (Moises Castillo/AP Photo)

GUATEMALA CITY—A progressive from outside Guatemala’s power structure was elected the country’s next president Sunday in a reprimand to the governing elite over widespread allegations of corruption.

With 100 percent of votes counted, preliminary results gave Mr. Arévalo 58 percent of the vote to 37 percent for former First Lady Sandra Torres in her third bid for the presidency. The official results will still have to be certified.

“We are going to make a government that is for all Guatemalans, a government that takes care of all people, despite differences,” Mr. Arévalo said. “All of us share a love for Guatemala. That’s what we have been working for and we will continue tirelessly to build a new spring.”

Mr. Arévalo said he had received calls from outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele and Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador congratulating him.

He said Mr. Giammattei invited him to begin an orderly transition the day after the results are certified.

Some of Mr. Arévalo’s supporters gathered at a plaza downtown in the capital waving flags and blowing horns.

The results are unlikely to be the last word: It took more than two weeks for the results of the first round of voting in June to be certified. Losing parties got the courts to intervene and order a review of precinct vote tallies.

When electoral authorities were finally ready to certify, the Attorney General’s Office announced an investigation into signatures that the Seed Movement had gathered to register years earlier as a party. That investigation continues, and prosecutors appear to be on a path to stripping Mr. Arévalo of his party.

Mr. Arévalo made it into the runoff with only about 654,000 votes or 11 percent of the total in the first round in June. On Sunday, he received more than 2.4 million.

But moves to drag the electoral process into the courts after the first round of voting in June led many Guatemalans to wonder what was to come between Sunday’s results and the transfer of power on Jan. 14.

Guatemala Election
(Left) Sandra Torres, National Unity of Hope, UNE, presidential candidate, in Guatemala City on Aug. 18, 2023. (Right) Bernardo Arévalo, Seed Movement presidential candidate, in Guatemala City on July 13, 2023. (Moises Castillo/AP Photo)

Voting appeared to have been peaceful. The Attorney General’s Office, which sought unsuccessfully to suspend Mr. Arévalo’s party before the vote, announced several arrests for interference with the process, but they appeared to be minor.

Poll workers at each voting table immediately began tallying ballots. One person would unfold each ballot, show it to the party observers at the table and announce which party received the vote.

Ms. Torres, in her closing campaign event Friday, suggested she would not accept a result that didn’t go her way. “We’re going to defend vote by vote because today democracy is at risk [and] because they want to steal the elections,” she said.

Ms. Torres has painted her opponent as a radical leftist who threatens Guatemalans’ conservative values on issues including sexual identity and abortion.

“We’re not going to let them influence our children with strange and foreign ideologies,” she said Friday.

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