Guatemala’s ruling party seeks manual recount of June 25 ballots

Guatemala City, Jul 4 (EFE).- Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei’s right-wing Vamos party on Tuesday asked for a manual recount of all the votes cast in the June 25 election to choose a successor to the term-limited head of state.

Vamos delegates made the request at the start of meetings of the electoral boards of the country’s 22 provinces, convened on the order of the Constitutional Court, which last Saturday froze the tabulation of the ballots.

The preliminary results set up a runoff between former first lady Sandra Torres, of the center-right UNE, and lawmaker Bernardo Arevalo, the candidate of the social-democratic Semilla party, who was running eighth in the opinion polls in the weeks leading up to the election.

Reflecting a high degree of discontent after three hopefuls – including the ostensible favorite – were excluded from the race based on dubious technicalities, the percentage of null or voided ballots, 17.3 percent, exceeded the vote for Torres.

The Vamos standard-bearer, attorney Manuel Conde Orellana, finished third, 200,000 votes behind Arevalo, the son of former President Juan Jose Arevalo.

Ten of the 29 parties that fielded presidential candidates claimed the counting was marred by irregularities and persuaded the Constitutional Court to issue an injunction against making the results official.

“Let’s open the (ballot) boxes. We have sufficient time,” Vamos delegate Hector Aldana shouted at members of the election board of Sacatepequez province.

The delegates of other parties rejected the idea, pointing out that Guatemalan law makes no provision for a recount of individual ballots.

“We are observing how from the start of the review hearings, the ruling party began to threaten the members of the electoral boards for there to be a complete recount,” Semilla delegate Juan Guerrero said.

Semilla congressman Roman Castellanos said on social media that Vamos “is trying to open the ballot boxes to sabotage the electoral policy and eliminate Semilla from the second round,” which is scheduled for Aug. 20.

The party grew out of large anti-corruption demonstrations in 2015 and Arevalo said that his surprising showing in the election “awakened the fear of the corrupt.”

Leaders of the indigenous communities in Totonicapan province warned Tuesday of consequences if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal does not certify the June 25 results and begin planning for the second round.

“If the rulings emitted by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are not revoked, and the constitutional order re-established, we will take legal actions and we will hold massive mobilizations in an act of social resistance,” they said in a statement.

Against the backdrop of the Giammettei administration’s offensive against journalists and prosecutors who put officials behind bars for graft, analysts attribute the attempt to nullify the elections to a so-called Pact of the Corrupt: politicians, military brass, and business magnates who wish to preserve the status quo.

EFE jcm/dr

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