GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A court-ordered review of Guatemala’s June 25 presidential election that included a second look at dozens of precinct tally sheets appears to have upheld the original vote totals, an electoral official said Friday. If candidates Sandra Torres and upstart Bernardo Arévalo remain the two highest vote-getters in the re-examination, it will
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A court-ordered review of Guatemala’s June 25 presidential election that included a second look at dozens of precinct tally sheets appears to have upheld the original vote totals, an electoral official said Friday.
If candidates Sandra Torres and upstart Bernardo Arévalo remain the two highest vote-getters in the re-examination, it will boost the likelihood that their one-two finish in the first round will stand and that the two candidates will head to a run-off election Aug. 20.
Asked about the vote tally review during a news conference Friday, Magistrate Gabriel Aguilera of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal praised the precinct panels of regular citizens responsible for tallying votes and told them not to be discouraged by critics of their work.
“In an exercise of civic responsibility, they watched over the vote of each Guatemalan and with the results of the second hearings … they confirm the June 25 results,” Aguilera said. “This has to be emphasized and support given to the citizens who have guarded Guatemalans’ vote.”
The tribunal said it will continue to wrap up the review to properly respond to the court.
Edie Cux, director of Accion Ciudadana, the local chapter of nongovernmental organization Transparency International, said Friday that the electoral tribunal must now endorse the work done by those reviewing the challenged tallies, and certify the election results.
“The result has not changed, the period for the review has practically closed and as established by the law now they must certify the results and assign positions looking ahead to the second election round,” Cux said.
The country’s highest court had suggested it might order a ballot-by-ballot recount, but that possibility — which doesn’t actually exist in Guatemalan electoral law — appears more remote, after several days of reviews of the tally sheets compiled by 152 of the more than 122,000 polling stations.
David de León, spokesman for the electoral tribunal, said the panel hoped to certify the results in the coming week once the challenged tallies are received and the necessary changes made to the vote totals.
The vote tallies were announced soon after the June 25 elections, but the court suspended the certification of official election results, granting a temporary injunction to 10 parties — one later dropped out — that challenged the results, saying they suspected they were robbed of votes.
The reviews witnessed by the AP found improperly marked or counted votes amounted to less than 1% of the total, not enough to change the results. The reviews grew heated at times with partisan observers shouting at reviewers for a ballot-by-ballot recount.
Claudia Ardón, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s inspector general, said that once the review is complete, a report will be given to the Supreme Court of Justice, which the Constitutional Court designated to handle the case.
In an extremely crowded field, neither Arévalo nor Torres got 50% of the vote, so they would be scheduled to face each other in a second-round one-on-one vote on Aug. 20.
Arévalo, of the progressive Seed Movement party, was a surprise, as he had not been polling among the leading candidates. Torres, the candidate for the conservative UNE party, is making her third bid for the presidency.
The court challenge had awoken fears that political forces might be seeking to invalidate the June 25 elections.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the U.S. government endorsed the conclusions of numerous domestic and international election observation groups, “which found that the published results in Guatemala’s most highly observed election matched with their observations across the country.”
“The United States supports the Guatemalan people’s constitutional right to elect their leaders via free and fair elections and is deeply concerned by efforts that interfere with the June 25 election result,” the statement said. “Undermining the June 25 election would be a grave threat to democracy with far reaching implications.”
Among the parties challenging the results are those of three candidates who were polling among the leaders before election day, but ended up getting less than 8% of the vote each. However, Torres’ party also asked for a review of the voting tallies.
Sonia Pérez D., The Associated Press