Sometimes it feels as though it’s impossible for there to be a trusting relationship between countries and their respective government bodies. Now, a lack of government trust is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that democracy has been around for so long and we’re still wondering if elections nowadays can ever be free and fair is just disheartening. Today, we’re talking about Guatemala, who are having a democratic crisis of their own right now after frontrunner Sandra Torres has alleged that votes had been manipulated to favor centrist Bernardo Arevalo, who snatched the runner-up spot to the surprise of many.
To make things more interesting, not only had most government bodies involved in the election endorse the results, the US Secretary of State has released a press statement warning against election interference. So, what’s going down and why? I’ll give you the rundown.
As of now, nothing has been proven, but the allegations of vote manipulation are still there nonetheless. However, the ballots for the first-round vote are being reviewed after being challenged by former first lady and current frontrunner Sandra Torres, setting up the possibility for a recount. When the frontrunner and former first lady starts spreading accusations of corruption, whether true or not, it’s bound to cause some unrest, especially amongst supporters and independent voters who bear an open mind. As expected, Bernardo Arevalo has denied these accusations fervently, claiming that they lack legal merit and actively endanger the legal process. We’ve seen this process before: one accusing the other of election fraud, placing the validity of the election under intense scrutiny when placed within the court of public opinion. In the end, Guatemala’s supreme electoral tribunal decided to abide by the court decision and review the first round of votes, which may in turn lead to a recount.
On Arevalo’s side is the European Union, who oversaw and backed the electoral tribunal’s results and called for all institutions and parties to respect the electoral process and the “clearly manifested will of citizens”.
The Organization of American States (OAS) weighed in on it as well, saying that the day in question was a satisfactory election day, in which citizens expressed their will, members of the electoral board facilitated the vote, and political parties inspected the vote at every stage”. They, too, requested that the results of that day be recognized as legitimate, continuing with: “Respect for the citizens’ will as expressed at the ballot box is a democratic imperative which must be upheld, honoring the decision already made by the voters.”
Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry also asked that the other nations respect Guatemala’s sovereignty, citing the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs.
That’s two giant international bodies and a huge section of Guatemala’s government backing the initial decision, but on top of that, there’s the US, who also defended Guatemala’s electoral process. On January 2nd, the secretary of state Antony Blinken said that Washington endorsed the vote’s outcome. It came with a press statement that served as an open letter towards those who may conspire to overthrow Guatemala’s election.
“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,”
said Blinken, voicing the thoughts of many government bodies who endorsed the vote’s findings.
“Actions to interfere with the election result violate the spirit of Guatemala’s constitution and threaten the legitimacy of its democratic process. The United States endorses the conclusions of the numerous Guatemalan organizations representing the private sector and civil society observation missions as well as international observation missions, including the Organization of American States and the European Union, which found that the published results in Guatemala’s most highly observed election matched with their observations across the country.”
With that, Blinken finished the statement off with a word of warning: “Undermining the June 25 election would be a grave threat to democracy with far reaching implications.”
Distrust in one’s government and questioning the legitimacy of its electoral process is always disheartening, no matter if the accusations of corruption are founded in reality or not. As of now, the US, EU, and Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry all back the initial results of the election. If they are proven valid, then it allows the people of Guatemala to breathe a little easier. If not, then I would rather not think of the implications that would unveil for not only Guatemala’s democratic system, but the government bodies endorsing it.