Civil society and the private sector of Guatemala, as well as national and international observers, have come out this Thursday in defense of the electoral process and called to respect the will of the citizens expressed at the polls on June 25, which led to the second round of the presidential ones to the candidate Bernardo Arévalo, of the Seed Movement, and Sandra Torres, of the National Unity of Hope (UNE).
The General Prosecutor’s Office, through the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), managed on Wednesday afternoon that the judge, Freddy Orellana, in charge of the Seventh Criminal Court issued an order to cancel the legal personality of the left-wing political institute that, against all odds, jumped to second place in electoral preferences in the last elections.
This Thursday, the FECI prosecutors have taken control of the facilities of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for a raid on the offices of the Citizens Registry where they would be looking for information on “the complaint of a citizen who claims to have been illegally adhered to said party political”, according to the Prosecutor’s Office this afternoon in the heat of the events.
The former director of the FECI, Juan Francisco Sandoval, commented to the voice of america in Washington that the entire operation “has an illegal origin” and that from those power structures “they will do everything” to try to reverse the result of the general elections that catapulted Arévalo to the final of the presidential elections.
While the events are taking place, the citizen response has been forceful, the different sectors of the Central American country have stood up to the judicial decision that they describe as a “coup” to the country’s democratic institutions and have celebrated that the TSE has certified the electoral results last night on Wednesday, which opens the way to the second round for next August 20.
The electoral observation missions of the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) as well as observance centers in the country have established a position so that the elections are respected.
The European Union urged this Thursday to “cease the judicialization of the elections with maneuvers that have dubious legal framework in the Guatemalan legal system, and that the public powers guarantee the free exercise of the vote without restrictions of any kind”.
Under what legal precept has the judicial decision been stopped?
In principle, the judicial order to cancel the legal status of the political party Movimiento Semilla would not have legal anchoring since Article 92 of the country’s Electoral Law prohibits the cancellation of a formation during the electoral contest.
The article states that “a party may not be suspended after an election has been called and until it has been held”, the basis on which the TSE acted to certify the results; a decision welcomed by civil society organizations.
The president of the TSE, Irma Palencia, said this Thursday that the action of the Prosecutor’s Office has surprised her due to the “unprecedented” nature of the events. At the same time, she stated that she was “concerned” by the heads, directors and workers of the institution who are facing “this invasion of a part of the institution” that has the constitutional mandate to arbitrate the entire electoral process in the country.
“I don’t know what to think anymore or what else is next (…) Yes, we are very concerned, not because we have absolutely nothing to hide, but the concern is because it is a question that not even the registrar had the opportunity to answer. They gave him 24 hours and already yesterday, July 12, we found out. Before this, there are actions, it is worrying,” added the official in an interview with United Stations.
What private sector organizations stepped forward?
Guatemalans saw since Wednesday night how the country’s powerful private sector established a position so that the electoral process returns to normality and adheres to the rule of law.
The Guatemalan Association of Exporters (Agexport) issued a statement to “recognize the work and work” of the TSE by making the electoral results official and calling for the second round of elections.
This organization requests strict adherence to the legal order that prohibits the suspension of a party after a call for elections, with which it considers that the citizens have spoken by calling Arévalo and Torres for a second round, one of them would occupy the presidential chair starting in January of next year.
Late at night, other private sector bodies such as the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) joined the demand for “respect for the process”, which requested adherence to electoral law.
Also separately, the Guatemalan Chamber of Construction and the Chamber of Agriculture published their pronouncements against the actions of the Public Ministry directed by the attorney general Consuelo Porras, sanctioned by the United States for “attacks on the democratic institutions” of the country.
The unions demand that “the electoral result not be disturbed with acts or resolutions that are not attached to the law” or the country’s legal framework.
The Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce also ruled this Thursday to reject any judicial obstruction that prevents the validity of the electoral results and the continuity of the process to elect one of the two shortlists that went to the second round.
“This chamber recalls that it is not the responsibility of the Ordinary Courts to interfere in powers that are the exclusive matter of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal,” he pointed out when referring to the situation in the country with actions in process by the Public Ministry against the Seed Movement.
What social organizations gave the alert signal?
The social organizations for the promotion of democracy and defense of human rights began to put pressure on Wednesday afternoon in the face of the evident “threats to democracy” with the continuous judicialization of the elections.
The Luis von Ahn Foundation expressed in a statement its deep “concern over the threats to democracy and the constitutional order and the implications that the latest events may have on the exercise of the rights of Guatemalans.”
The Foundation for the Development of Guatemala (FUNDESA) also aligned itself with the defense of the country’s institutions, with which it called for respecting the results and for Guatemalans to go to the polls on August 20 informed to cast the vote that will decide who He will rule the country for the next four years.
This entity said that “due process and the rule of law must be respected, for which we ask all the authorities not to be carried away by political pressure or of any kind that leads to the weakening of the rule of law in our country.” ”.
To these pronouncements were added positions such as the Coalition of organizations against impunity and corruption in Guatemala, ProJusticia with a categorical rejection of the actions of the Public Ministry to remove the Seed Movement from the electoral competition.
“A judge and a prosecutor emerge as the visible faces of the dark forces that operate from the justice system. They are making reckless attempts to prevent free and democratic elections. They want to eliminate results and candidates with spurious legal actions,” denounced the coalition.
To this was added the call of the National Civic Movement to demand “respect for the electoral process” and that “the hierarchy of electoral law” prevail in the country as a guarantor for free elections.
“To enforce the popular will and thus guarantee a clean and orderly alternation of public power” in the Central American nation that is watched with concern by the international community in the face of notable democratic setbacks.
What have the two candidates said?
The candidate Sandra Torres, of the UNE Party, said this Thursday in a statement posted on her social networks that the legal actions of the last few hours are “confusing, disconcerting and harmful” in the face of the final stretch of the elections.
Torres made it to the second round with 15% support at the polls, 10% less than the percentage achieved in 2018 to compete for the presidency against Alejandro Giammattei, when he ran to the final also in first position, but far from more than 50% required to win the match.
For his part, the candidate Bernardo Arévalo de Semilla said that the entire operation directed by the Public Ministry “has no legal basis” since there is no competence of a judge to cancel a political party in the middle of the electoral process.
His movement introduced an appeal to the Constitutional Court on Thursday to stop the attempts of the judge and the Attorney General’s Office to stop the process in the country that is advancing uphill.
“This is not for us or for Seed, it is for the entire country. The powerful no longer want the people to freely decide their future, but we are going to defeat them. The seed of change and hope will not be trampled on.
As the hours go by, Guatemalans are still not certain if the situation has been remedied and if the calendar will be met to go to the polls on August 20 and decide who will assume the reins of the Executive of their country. From the outside the situation is closely monitored.