Guatemala City, Jun 25 (EFE).- Voting was disrupted Sunday in at least three of Guatemala’s 340 municipalities in the 11th general election since Central America’s most populous nation became a democracy in 1986.
Authorities confirmed that voting was suspended in the central town of San Jose de Golfo, about 28 km (17 mi) from the capital, as the local electoral officials resigned en masse after receiving threats.
Riot police came to disperse people at polling places, but no injuries were reported.
“We have doubts about the legality of the process. An election can’t be conducted this way,” Ana Gudiel, a poll-watcher representing the center-left UNE party, told EFE, while area residents asked the national electoral authorities to reschedule the voting.
In the southeastern town of San Martin Zapotitlan, ballots were burned by people who claimed that ineligible people had been brought in from another community to cast votes.
That incident also prompted a deployment of riot police and one civilian required treatment for the effects of tear gas.
While in the northern municipality of Ixchan, prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office confiscated ostensibly false ballots marked in favor of the ruling conservative Vamos party.
The polls opened at 7:00 am (1300 GMT) and were set to close at 6:00 pm.
Roughly 9.3 million people were eligible to cast ballots, but turnout in the 2019 elections was 61 percent and analysts said that the figure could be lower this time because of widespread disillusionment with the political class.
The administration of outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei – barred from seeking a second term – managed to exclude several popular presidential hopefuls from the contest and many expect that a second round of voting in August will be necessary to select the next head of state.
Voters are being asked to choose a president and vice president, mayors, national and regional lawmakers, and representatives to the Central American Parliament.
A survey conducted by the ProDatos firm predicted that the UNE candidate, former first lady Sandra Torres, will finish first, but with no more than 21 percent of the vote.
Torres, making her third consecutive run for the presidency, lost in the runoff in 2015 and 2019.
Former congressional speaker and United Nations official Edmond Mulet, a centrist, is expected to secure the second spot with 13.4 percent, while right-winger Zury Rios Sosa is projected to garner 9.1 percent of the vote.
Rios Sosa is the daughter of late dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who presided over the bloodiest phase of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war.