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  • Sandra Torres, presidential candidate for the National Unity of Hope (UNE), greets to supporters during a rally, in Guatemala City

    Sandra Torres, presidential candidate for the National Unity of Hope (UNE), greets to supporters during a rally, in Guatemala City | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 June 2019

Political parties in Guatemala are continuing their campaigns through the different regions of the country. They have until Friday to close them.

Guatemala will hold a presidential election next Sunday while the country is facing many difficulties including widespread corruption and an unpopular president have set the stag for an election characterized by a huge number of mostly unknown presidential candidates.

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With around 18 presidential aspirants participating in the race, many Guatemalans are undecided, and a lot of them do not know the programs and proposals that have been presented.

Until recently, three women were leading in voters intentions, but last month, the country’s Constitutional Court disqualified two of them (Thelma Aldana and Zury Ríos). The first one because of an investigation launched against her and the second one for being the daughter of a former dictator.

From the top three female contenders, only Sandra Torres from the National Unity of Hope party remains. As the ex-wife of the disgraced former President Alvaro Colom, this is Torres' third attempt at the presidency and she is now leading voter polls.

Three other candidates stand out from the long list. One of them is Alejandro Giammattei who had run three times before and each election on a different party. This time he is running for the new party Vamos. The second is Roberto Arzu, son of former president Álvaro Arzú and mayor of the capital Guatemala City. The third one is Edmond Mulet an experienced politician and diplomat running for the Humanist party of Guatemala.

There are big challenges for the next president of the country who will be expected to be to provide solutions to voters' urgent concerns, which include a slowing economy, growing poverty, wild corruption and high levels of crime.

Corruption has always characterized the country’s political life. In an effort to address the problem, the government of Oscar Berger (2004-2008) invited the United Nations to create the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to inquire into corruption and crime in the country.

Despite of this step, corruption remains widespread and in the latest version Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, Guatemala ranked 144 out of 180 countries.

The progress made by the CICIG came to an end during Jimmy Morales presidency and his broken promises have produced immense dissatisfaction among Guatemala’s population.

In August, President Morales said he would end the commission’s mandate when it expires in September 2019. At that time he also prohibited its director, Ivan Velasquez, from reentering Guatemala from his home country of Colombia and ordered the government to withhold the passports of over 30 of its employees. This all unfolded just days after the commission was getting closer and closer to investigating the president and his National Party (NP), for illicit campaign financing during Morales’ 2016 run for head of state, among other charges.

In September 2017 the Guatemalan Congress granted the president prosecutorial immunity, which, after three attempts, was revoked in late August and a congressional committee was announced to investigate the president and several of his close political allies, under pressure from CICIG and the state prosecutor's office.

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