Guatemalan prosecutors threaten to nullify President-elect Arevalo’s victory | Election news

Guatemalan tribunal defends election results as “unchangeable” while critics accuse prosecutors of attempted “coup”.

Guatemala’s top electoral tribunal has declared the results of this year’s presidential race “unchangeable” after prosecutors openly questioned whether to annul the vote.

The prosecutors’ statements sparked a domestic and international firestorm, marking what critics see as the latest — and most directly stated — effort to overturn President-elect Bernardo Arevalo’s election victory.

The Organization of American States (OAS), a regional election observer, went so far as to condemn the statements as “attempted coup d’état“.

“The actions and statements of prosecutors Rafael Curucci and Leonor Morales represent a change in the constitutional order of the country, a violation of the rule of law and a violation of the human rights of the population of their country,” it said in a statement on Friday.

“The attempt to nullify this year’s general elections represents the worst form of democratic breakdown and the consolidation of political fraud against the will of the people.”

The latest chapter in Guatemala’s ongoing electoral turmoil erupted Friday with a press conference led by Curruchiche, Morales and Angel Pineda Avila, secretary general of the Ministry of Public Affairs.

State Department prosecutors have been accused of undemocratic actions in the past. The United States, for example, previously alleged that Curruchiche and Pineda had “obstructed investigations into corruption” to further their political goals.

At Friday’s briefing, prosecutors reiterated their request that Arevalo be stripped of his political immunity, a step that could open him up to prosecution. They accused him of illegally collecting signatures for his presidential campaign, as well as misusing political funds.

But they went a step further by increasing the likelihood that the presidential election would be overturned as a result of their findings.

“Today is a historic day for democratic institutions,” Pineda said at the news conference, defending the work of his colleagues as “impartial” and denying any intention to interfere in the election results.

But the reaction at the press conference was swift. Blanca Alfaro, the head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, a state body tasked with maintaining the integrity of elections, quickly responded with her own press conference, denying the possibility of new elections.

“I would like to ratify, in my role as a magistrate and in my personal capacity, that the results are valid, official and unalterable,” she said.

She also confirmed that Arevalo and his vice president, Karin Herrera, will take office as scheduled. “At this point, there is no way the Supreme Electoral Tribunal will repeat the election.”

Prosecutors previously targeted the Supreme Electoral Tribunal itself, ordering searches of its offices after the election that led to the opening of sealed ballot boxes.

Protesters on December 7 hold banners criticizing Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras, left, and Prosecutor Rafael Curucci, right, for undemocratic actions [Cristina Chiquin/Reuters]

Guatemala has long struggled to rein in official corruption. For example, a UN-backed body called the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) found itself abruptly shut down in 2021 after then-President Jimmy Morales accused it of illegal actions.

Morales himself has since been investigated for corrupt activities.

This year’s presidential race was also marred by questions about the integrity of the election. Three prominent candidates were disqualified before the first round of voting, including the then-favourite.

Arevalo, meanwhile, was a dark horse running on a progressive anti-corruption platform with the Seed Movement party. But he jumped into the limelight with a surprise second-place finish in June’s general election, securing one of two runoff seats.

Then trouble began for him and his party. Within days, a court in Guatemala agreed to suspend the results of the vote pending a review. After the results were confirmed, the Seed Movement itself faced a temporary suspension after prosecutors accused it of illegally gathering signatures to register as a political party.

Efforts to stop the Seed Movement continued even after Arevalo scored a landslide victory in the runoff. He won more than 60 percent of the vote, beating former Vice President Sandra Torres, a conservative candidate.

But prosecutors continued to investigate Arevalo, prompting election observers to wonder if they were planning to derail his victory through anti-democratic means.

In November, for example, the Ministry of Public Law filed a request to revoke Arevalo’s political immunity for his involvement in a student-led protest movement, citing his social media posts at the time.

However, protests erupted across the country in support of the election results, many led by local leaders.

Arevalo is due to be sworn into office on January 14, succeeding outgoing conservative President Alejandro Giamattei.

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