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Anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo won Guatemala’s presidential election Sunday, a landslide victory following a race that was marred with allegations of fraud and government interference, NPR reported Monday.
Election officials said the center-left politician won slightly more than 59 percent of the vote, while his opponent, former First Lady Sandra Torres, secured 36.1 percent of the vote.
It was a surprising win for Arévalo and his Seed Movement party, who were not well-known even just a few months ahead of the presidential elections. The dark horse contender surprised pollsters following the first round of voting in June, when he came in second place after Torres.
But questions emerged about the elections’ legitimacy after Torres and other establishment candidates challenged the first round’s results. Meanwhile, a court suspended Arévalo’s party over alleged irregularities in the gathering of signatures to create the Seed Movement.
On Friday, Guatemala’s Supreme Court granted a permanent injunction to Arévalo’s party and blocked the lower court’s suspension of the Seed Movement, according to the Associated Press.
Arévalo’s victory underscores the growing discontent among Guatemalans over corruption and the weakening rule of law that have worsened inequality in the Central American country, CNN noted.
Guatemala has witnessed a rise in emigration to the United States due to these challenges, exacerbated by the dissolution of the United Nations-backed anti-corruption commission (CICIG) in 2019. Guatemalan authorities have begun investigations into judges and prosecutors linked to the commission, prompting many of them to flee the country.
Still, questions linger as to whether the new leader will be allowed to govern in a country where the military and the elite dominate national affairs. For example, Rafael Curruchiche, a top prosecutor, told broadcaster Canal Antigua that mass arrests could occur after the voting ended over the voting irregularities in the first round, the Washington Post reported.
The future leader could also face challenges in the legislature, as the country’s congress is dominated by establishment parties, including Torres’ Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza.