Guatemala: Otto Perez Molina leads votes in first round
September 11, 2011
On 11 September, Guatemala went to the polls to choose the successor of President alvaro Colom. According to preliminary results from the Electoral Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo Electoral) and with 80% of the total votes counted, the two front runners are right-wing and former army General Otto Perez Molina from the Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota) and businessman Manuel Baldizon of the left-wing LIDER Party (LIDER, Libertad Democratica Renovada). However, neither candidate won an outright majority, with Perez winning some 37% of the votes and Baldizon some 23%. According to Guatemala's electoral law, a run-off election is necessary if the leading candidate does not win more than 50% of total votes in the first round. Opinion polls before Sunday's election had favoured Otto Perez Molina, who pledged to fight organised crime by sending troops to the streets as drug cartels, most commonly from Mexico, are using Guatemala as a shipment route, resulting in a notable increase in violent crimes over the past years. Meanwhile, Manuel Baldizon's gained additional support after former First Lady Sandra Torres was banned by the country's Constitutional Court to run for president. Baldizon benefited from the Court's decision as he and Torres share the same voter profile. As both candidates fell short of getting more than 50% of the ballots, Guatemala will hold a run-off election on 6 November (a first round victory has not occured since the country returned to democracy in 1986). In addition to fighting the increasing presence of organised crime and violence, Guatemala's future president also faces the challenge of garnering parliamentary support for a fiscal reform after the former government's counter-cyclical fiscal policy response to the global financial turmoil boosted spending, which brought the fiscal deficit to 3.3% of GDP in 2010.
Author: Ricardo Aceves, Senior Economist