The Supreme Court paves the way for the officialization of electoral results in Guatemala | International

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Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo, the winning candidates of the first round in Guatemala.CRISTINA CHIQUIN (REUTERS)

A unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Justice has paved the way this Monday for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to make official the results of the elections in Guatemala and to call the second presidential round, which according to the verification of the scrutinies, will be disputed between the candidates Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo. The court ruling puts an end to a crisis that fueled suspicions of a technical coup and prolongation of the duties of President Alejandro Giammattei.

The crisis originated from a unilateral action by the president of the Supreme Court, Silvia Valdés, who gave effect to a request from three parties that are not satisfied with the second ballots and demand a recount of votes. These groups act under the direction of former deputy Manuel Baldizón, who served a sentence in the United States for money laundering.

In yet another episode of the judicialization of the electoral process in Guatemala, the Supreme Court declared “inadmissible” the actions of three political parties dissatisfied with the second scrutiny carried out by order of the Constitutional Court. On July 1, that instance granted an injunction to nine parties that pointed out inconsistencies in the results and ordered a reexamination of the results. So, the court left the door open so that, "if necessary", a recount of votes is made, a controversial decision because the procedure is not regulated and that could be extended indefinitely, with the consequence that the 14th is reached. January, the date of the replacement, and there is no elected president, according to several jurists such as the former constituent Aquiles Faillace.

Suspicions of the extension of presidential functions grew so much that on Monday morning, President Alejandro Giammattei published a statement in which he recalled that the constitutional term for his mandate is "non-extendable" and called for "the second electoral round to take carried out on the date indicated by law. The recent decision of the Supreme Court considers the scrutiny review hearings that were repeated by all the country's electoral boards as good and fulfilled and during which no discrepancies were found that significantly change the results that were announced after the voting.

The Supreme Court has also rejected the parties' claims to recount each of the votes, in keeping with the criteria of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. With this new step, "the way is paved for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to make data official, but the battle is long, because there can be no adjudication of charges until the amparo granted by the Constitutional Court [el 1 de julio] be resolved ultimately," Faillace explained.

Upon learning of the Supreme Court's resolution, Bernardo Arévalo celebrated that the appeals of the "losing parties" had been declared inadmissible. "Despite the fact that the same as always tried to delay the process and prevent the people from choosing a change, the seed finds a way to germinate," he wrote in a tweet. Torres did not pronounce immediately, although during the weekend his position was for the continuity of the electoral process.

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The amparo granted by the constitutional court and which originates the suspension continues its process until it reaches a sentence. Meanwhile, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has assured that it has the will to make the results official and respect the vote of the citizens.

A mini crisis on the weekend

On July 1, the constitutional chamber granted an amparo in favor of nine political parties, under the leadership of the Cambio party, of former deputy Manuel Baldizón who served a sentence in the United States for conspiracy to launder money. The party bloc claimed inconsistencies in the electoral results and managed to have the ballots repeated. As it was discovered that there were no major changes in the results, the block was shelled. Three parties have remained in the move -Valor, Change and All- that achieved few results at the polls and are headed for cancellation.

Not satisfied with the second scrutiny, those parties that Arévalo has called "losers" asked the Supreme Court for verification of compliance with the order issued by the constitutional chamber and insisted on the vote count, in the same sense that it was claimed the party in government. On Friday night, the president of the Supreme Court Silvia Valdés processed the request for due execution and unilaterally requested reports from the electoral court. The magistrate's action was the target of criticism, questioning and she increased the suspicions of a technical coup, which have vanished with the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.

Thus, between the crisis that began on July 1, another mini-crisis was created that lasted a weekend and that the Supreme Court cleared up this Monday. The Supreme Court ruling gives a new breath in the most run over electoral process in the democratic history of Guatemala. The expectation is to advance to the second round and for the charges to be made official, the political scientist Marielos Chang has told EL PAÍS. “However, I do want to make it clear that it is a setback for our democracy that we must depend on the courts to make electoral results official,” she pointed out.

Chang recalls that "the meddling of the courts, Supreme and Constitutional, in the electoral process did not begin after the first round and does not end today." It should be remembered that three presidential candidates with the potential to reach the second round were left out of contention due to judicial decisions. And the provisional amparo that the court has declared invalid continues its process. "The institutional erosion and the lost confidence in the authorities creates a collective hysteria and a fear that any action is a democratic breach" which, for today, has vanished, concludes Chang.

Several social, business and international observer sectors remained in suspense during the ten days of the suspension of the electoral process in a country that, according to the anthropologist Irmalicia Velásquez, went to the polls to say enough to corruption and placed its hope in the option that is further away from the authoritarianism that has deepened during the government of Alejandro Giammattei. More than a hundred justice operators and journalists have had to go into exile during the administration of Giammattei, whose party has agreed to the legal actions that led to the suspension of the process.

Sandra Torres arrives at the ballot, scheduled for August 20, with 15% of the valid votes in the first round and has proposed to attract the vote of the conservative sectors with a pro-life speech and in favor of the traditional family, as her running mate evangelical pastor Romeo Guerra. Over the weekend, the vice-presidential candidate for the National Unity of Hope party took to Twitter to point out and criticize Arévalo's stance on gender identity, sparking a heated exchange of messages with several users of that social network.

The candidate of the Seed Movement, Bernardo Arévalo, climbed from the last places in the polls and achieved the acceptance of 12% of the 5.5 million Guatemalans who went to the polls on June 25. Neither the analysts nor the polls foresaw the rise of Arévalo, who on Sunday spent seven hours at the International Book Fair to sign copies of his essay Violent state and political army: state formation and military function in Guatemala (1524-1963). When his book ran out, Arévalo had to autograph the titles of other authors or the loose pages that his supporters brought him.

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