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Guatemala's high court steps into election, suspends release of official results

People gather outside the Constitutional Court where a session to examine the complaints of several political parties about irregularities in the June 25th general elections is underway, in Guatemala City, Saturday, July 1, 2023.
Moises Castillo
/
AP
People gather outside the Constitutional Court where a session to examine the complaints of several political parties about irregularities in the June 25th general elections is underway, in Guatemala City, Saturday, July 1, 2023.

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's highest court has suspended the release of official election results, granting a temporary injunction to 10 parties that challenged the results of the June 25 vote.

The Constitutional Court late Saturday called for a new hearing to review the contested tallies in no more than five days.

Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo had emerged from a field of nearly two dozen presidential hopefuls in the first round of voting. Since neither came close the 50% threshold, they were expected to compete in an Aug. 20 runoff to determine Guatemala's next president.

Arévalo in particular from 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.

Essentially, the court wants to compare the tallies that were put into the electoral system with the ones from the polling places themselves to make sure they match. If necessary, the court said that it would order a new count of challenged ballots.

Constitutional lawyer Alejandro Balsells said a recount should be avoided for the good of the process. The temporarily formed panels that count the votes at each polling station on election day are the ones who count should matter.

Practically speaking, it means that a week after the election, results remain unofficial for president, vice president, all of the seats in congress and hundreds of local elected positions across the country.

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.

Dozens of people protested outside the court Saturday night, demanding that their votes be respected and not determined by the courts.

Arévalo was among them and said, "together with the people we are not going to allow them to defraud the will of the Guatemalan people."

The Associated Press
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