GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — With tensions surrounding Guatemala’s June 25 presidential election heightening, President Alejandro Giammattei took the unusual step of publishing an open letter Monday saying he has no intention of staying in power beyond his term. Two weeks have passed since electoral authorities identified two presidential candidates to face off in an Aug.
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — With tensions surrounding Guatemala’s June 25 presidential election heightening, President Alejandro Giammattei took the unusual step of publishing an open letter Monday saying he has no intention of staying in power beyond his term.
Two weeks have passed since electoral authorities identified two presidential candidates to face off in an Aug. 20 runoff. But the courts have intervened at the request of some political parties and blocked certification of the results.
The delay fed rumors that Giammattei, an unpopular leader accused by the U.S. government and others of backsliding on democracy, might be looking to hold onto power because one of the candidates in the runoff has vowed to tackle corruption.
Without providing specifics, Giammettei denounced a “campaign of disinformation and absolutely false and biased rumors.” He said he was telling Guatemalans that he would respect the constitutional end of his term on Jan. 14, 2024.
He said the second round of voting should go ahead as scheduled and he would work on the transfer of power with whomever is elected.
Last week, under order from the Constitutional Court — Guatemala’s highest — panels reviewed precinct vote tallies that had been challenged by some political parties.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal then said the review did not change the election’s results, which showed conservative Sandra Torres and progressive Bernardo Arévalo as the top two vote-getters among the 22 presidential candidates.
But late Friday, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Justice — the court designated to handle the election challenges — issued an order that the process to certify the results could not go forward until electoral authorities reported to her on their methods and any inconsistencies found.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of Justice endorsed last week’s review of challenged precinct vote tallies and rejected additional attempts by some political parties to further delay the certification of the results.
What the court did not say was whether its decision clears the way for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to to certify the results.
Supreme Electoral Tribunal spokesman David de León said the country’s electoral authority would continue the process to certify the results and proceed with the Aug. 20 runoff.
“Despite the emphatic language assuring he’ll step down from the post and the call to respect the second round date, (Giammattei’s) statement does not clarify what the president would do if the Supreme Court … decided for whatever reason to change” the results, said Tiziano Breda, a Latin America expert and researcher at Italy’s International Affairs Institute.
Giammattei tries to present himself as the guarantor of the separation of powers, but he and his party are the “architects” of the judicial intervention that is delaying the certification of the results, Breda said.
Later Monday, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal urged calmed. In a broadcast news conference, tribunal President Irma Palencia said, “We are making our greatest effort to continue guaranteeing the protection of the vote, because this election is won or lost at the ballot box and that is where you are invited to participate again Aug. 20.”
Sonia Pérez D., The Associated Press