Judicial coup in Guatemala? Arbitrary suspension of electoral results

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The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) condemns the arbitrary decision of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala to suspend the publication of the results of the first round. It also requires that the votes be respected and the electoral rights of Guatemalan citizens be guaranteed.

3 July 2023. The elections in Guatemala, held on 25 June, were conducted in an atmosphere tarnished by the absence of legitimacy. The veto of candidates, the persecution of journalists and the harassment of human rights defenders, who repeatedly reported on the current system of corruption, demonstrated the absence of guarantees and transparency in the elections.

In this context, the count gave the victory to Sandra Torres, former first lady and leader of the Nacional de la Esperanza party (UNE) and to Bernardo Arévalo, the candidate for the Movimiento Semilla, whose victory was completely unexpected. Both candidates should have gone to a second round but, one week after the vote, the judges of the Constitutional Court decided to suspend publication of the results because of the alleged need to carry out a recount of the votes. This decision demonstrates the absence of democratic commitment of one of the most important judicial bodies of the State.

In a note published on 21 June, the FIDH reported that the Constitutional Court had improperly censored tiresome candidates who had exposed certain cases of corruption. In this context, we can see the danger experienced by democracy in Guatemala, whose institutions, which include the bodies of the Judiciary, lack independence.

This time, in a clear attack against due electoral process, the CC judges have taken the decision to carry out a recount of the votes “in order to ensure the purity of the electoral process”. FIDH rejects the decision to purify the results since it does not contain any arguments or objective evidence to justify it. In reality, its purpose appears to be to call into question results that do not favour the present political class.

Jimena Reyes, FIDH director for the Americas, demands that “the Constitutional Court abandon its decision to suspend the publication of the results of the first round.”

Similarly, the organisation urgently calls on the international community to sanction the CC judges who are committing serious violations of the political rights of citizens and of democracy in Guatemala. Finally, we require the authorities in Guatemala to comply with their responsibility to guarantee the electoral rights of all citizens.

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