Guatemala holds general elections, with ex-first lady leading in polls
Tereso Guerra, 85, is the first voter to cast a ballot in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, during the general elections on June 16, 2019. EPA-EFE/Esteban Biba
A man walks by an election precinct in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, during the general elections on June 16, 2019. EPA-EFE/Esteban Biba
A woman votes in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, during the general elections on June 16, 2019. EPA-EFE/Esteban Biba
Guatemala City, Jun 16 (efe-epa).- Voters are heading to the polls on Sunday for the general elections in Guatemala, where more than 8 million people are eligible to cast ballots.
In addition to choosing a president and vice president, voters will also elect 160 members of Congress, 20 Central American Parliament members and 340 municipal officials.
The Central American nation's 2,932 polling places opened at 7:00 am and will close at 6:00 pm.
Guatemalan and foreign election observers will monitor the vote count, which is expected to be long.
The observers are playing an important role in light of the allegations of fraud leveled in the days leading up to the elections, a situation that prompted the national elections commission to express its commitment to a clean vote and urge citizens to turn out for the general elections.
Former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, who is in charge of the Organization of American States (OAS) observer mission, said Sunday that he hoped for "calm" and a high turnout, adding that he feared that disinformation could lead to "some kind of violence at a time like this."
Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart, for his part, said that voting was suspended in San Jorge, a city in Zacapa province, after several election board members resigned.
"The electoral process in that city has been suspended," Degenhart said in a press conference, adding that the election officials resigned after a group of residents opposed the opening of the election precincts.
Heading into Sunday's election, former first lady Sandra Torres, of the National Unity and Hope Party, was leading in the polls, garnering the support of 20.2 percent of likely voters, but she would have to go to a run-off against the No. 2 finisher.
Former national prison system chief Alejandro Giammattei, of the Vamos party, was in second place in the polls, drawing the support of 14.4 percent of likely voters.
The other candidates with a chance at making the run-off are former UN official Edmond Mulet, of the Humanist Party; Roberto Arzu, of the PAN-Podemos party, and human rights activist Thelma Cabrera, of the Movement for the Liberation of Peoples.
Guatemala is holding its ninth general elections since the start of the democratic era in 1986 with the election of Christian Democrat Vinicio Cerezo as president following several decades of coups, military rule and electoral fraud.
Since then, seven civilians have been elected president.
In 2012, however, retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina, however, was elected head of state. Perez Molina was forced to resign in 2015 amid a corruption scandal.
The former general and his erstwhile vice president are in prison awaiting trial on corruption charges.