Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Court has declared the results of this year’s presidential race “unalterable” after prosecutors openly questioned the annulment of the vote.
The prosecutors’ statements sparked a national and international firestorm and represented the latest – and most vocal – attempt to overturn President-elect Bernardo Arevalo’s election victory.
The Organization of American States (OAS), a regional election observer, even condemned the statements as “a coup attempt“.
“The actions and statements of prosecutors Rafael Curruchiche and Leonor Morales constitute a change in the country’s constitutional order, a violation of the rule of law and a violation of the human rights of the people of their country,” it said in a statement on Friday.
“The attempt to annul this year’s general election represents the worst form of democratic collapse and the perpetuation of a political fraud against the will of the people.”
The latest chapter in Guatemala’s ongoing electoral turmoil began Friday with a news conference led by Curruchiche, Morales and Angel Pineda Avila, secretary general of the public ministry.
State Department prosecutors have been accused of undemocratic actions in the past. The United States, for example, has previously alleged that Curruchiche and Pineda “obstructed investigations into acts of corruption” to further their political goals.
In a news conference on Friday, prosecutors reiterated their call for Arevalo to be stripped of his political immunity, a move that could expose him to criminal prosecution. They accused him of illegally collecting signatures for his presidential campaign and mismanaging political funds.
But they went a step further and raised the prospect of a failed presidential election based on their findings.
“Today is a historic day for democratic institutions,” Pineda said in the press conference, defending his colleagues’ work as “impartial” and denying any intention to interfere in the election results.
But the backlash to the press conference came quickly. Blanca Alfaro, the head of the Supreme Electoral Court, a government agency responsible for maintaining electoral integrity, immediately responded with a news conference of her own, refuting the possibility of a new election.
“I would like to confirm, in my role as a judge and in my personal capacity, that the results are valid, official and unchangeable,” she said.
She also reiterated that Arevalo and his vice president Karin Herrera would take office as planned. “There is currently no possibility for the Supreme Electoral Court to repeat the elections.”
Prosecutors had previously targeted the Supreme Electoral Court itself, ordering post-election raids on its offices during which sealed ballot boxes were opened.
On December 7, demonstrators held banners criticizing Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras (left) and Prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche (right) for undemocratic actions [Cristina Chiquin/Reuters]
Guatemala has long struggled to curb official corruption. For example, a United Nations-backed body called the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was abruptly closed in 2021 after then-President Jimmy Morales accused it of illegal actions.
Morales himself is now being investigated for corrupt activities.
This year’s presidential election was also marked by questions of election integrity. Three prominent candidates were disqualified before the first round of voting, including the then leading candidate.
Arevalo, on the other hand, was a dark horse who ran with the Seed Movement Party on a progressive anti-corruption platform. But he shot into the spotlight with a surprise second-place finish in June’s general election, securing one of two spots in the runoff.
That’s when the trouble began for him and his group. Within days, a Guatemalan court agreed to suspend the voting results pending a review. After the results were confirmed, the Seed Movement itself was suspended after prosecutors claimed it had unlawfully collected signatures for registration as a political party.
Efforts to suspend the Seed Movement continued even after Arevalo won a landslide victory in the runoff. He secured over 60 percent of the vote, defeating former Vice President Sandra Torres, a conservative candidate.
But prosecutors continue to investigate Arevalo, leading election observers to question whether they plan to use anti-democratic means to overturn his victory.
In November, for example, the State Department filed a motion to strip Arevalo of his political immunity because of his participation in a student-led protest movement, citing his social media posts at the time.
However, protests broke out across the country to uphold the election results, many of which were led by indigenous leaders.
Arevalo is scheduled to take office on January 14, succeeding outgoing conservative President Alejandro Giammattei.
Source : www.aljazeera.com