US, civic groups slam Guatemala mid-poll party suspension

Guatemala City, Jul 12 (EFE).- The United States government and social organizations in Guatemala on Wednesday denounced the suspension of the Central American country’s Semilla party of presidential candidate Bernardo Arévalo de León.

The suspension happened at the same time as the country’s top electoral tribunal confirmed the June 25 first-round vote result, delayed by 17 days due to judicial appeals, taking the election into a run-off between left-wing academic Arévalo and right-wing former first lady Sandra Torres Casanova.

Ambassador Brian Nichols, the US State Department’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, said he welcomed the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s certification of the results and looked forward to the second round on Aug. 20.

“But we are deeply concerned by new [Public Ministry] threats to Guatemala’s electoral democracy. Institutions must respect the will of voters,” he wrote on Twitter.

Civic and social groups said in a statement that the decision to suspend Semilla was “illegal” and urged the tribunal to disregard the suspension made by a judge and comply with the constitution.

The signatories included Transparency International, Citizen Action and the National Network of Commissions and Citizen Collectives for Transparency and Probity, among others.

The statement claimed the objective of the suspension of Semilla was “to carry an electoral equivalent of a coup.”

Supreme Electoral Tribunal President Irma Palencia said the court had not been aware of the Public Ministry’s (Attorney General’s office) announcement of Semilla’s suspension at the time they had confirmed the first-round results.

According to local media, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has 24 hours to obey the ruling on the suspension of Semilla or else it could be accused of not complying with the law.

However, according to other positions of experts in constitutional and electoral matters, the Guatemalan electoral regulations also establish that no party can be canceled while elections are underway and that the body is independent.

Arévalo advanced to the runoff with a shock second place in the first round, behind Torres. EFE


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