GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalans turned out for the second round of the presidential election on Sunday amid skepticism and in lower numbers than marked the first-round balloting last month.
Although lines had formed at polling places for the 7:00 am opening of the polls, some precincts reported virtually nobody on hand to cast ballots after an hour.
A number of reports from polling places both in the capital and in the Guatemalan interior said that the second round was being marked by low voter turnout.
“The flow of voters (has been) very sparse, much less than what (we saw) during the first round” on July 16, personnel at the polling place located at the Technical Training Institute in the capital.
Luis Guillermo Menegazzo, one of the staff at the Liceo Lomas del Norte precinct, said that by midday just 58 of the precinct’s 337 registered voters had cast ballots.
The head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSJ), Julio Solorzano, told EFE that it is “normal for there to be fewer voters, as has historically been the case” in the second round, a situation that is due to “the lack of support among Guatemalans for the two available (candidates).”
Nevertheless, he invited the public “not to wait for four more years to have the opportunity to vote.”
Guatemalans were selecting their next president from between the two runoff candidates: former first lady and Social Democrat Sandra Torres, with the National Unity of Hope party and the former head of the country’s Penitentiary System, Alejandro Giammattei, with the center-right Vamos party, which recent voter surveys put in the lead.
Both candidates urged voters to get out and participate in the election.
In addition to electing the president, the general elections will be repeated in the towns of Itzapa, Tajumulco, Esquipulas Palo Gordo, San Antonio Ilotenango and San Jorge.
In those communities, despite the fact that votes were not accounted for in the June 16 legislative election, this time around the ballots will only include the presidential candidates and the mayoral candidates.
It will be upon those towns, due to the previous election problems, and upon the general presidential election that attention will focus on Sunday, with the public selecting a president to succeed Jimmy Morales next Jan. 14 and govern from 2020-2024.
Meanwhile, the head of the Organization of American States mission to monitor the election, Luis Guillermo Solis, said on Sunday that the balloting was proceeding “normally” and without any serious incidents.
The altercations that have been registered “do not constitute in any way a general pattern of irregularities,” the former president of Costa Rica said during a visit to one of the voting centers in the capital.
He said that he had heard of disturbances early in the day in San Marcos province, although he added that things quickly returned to normal there, and he mentioned receiving some complaints of vote-buying, although he reiterated that these were both “isolated” incidents.
He did, however, lament the “low participation” so far during election day and expressed his hope that more voters would turn out during the coming hours before the polls close at 6:00 pm.
“We want a process that will not be tarnished by violence. We’re hoping that what happened in the first phase will not be repeated. That’s not good for the electoral process or for the country, and it’s also not good for the region. Today, Guatemala can give us an example of civic responsibility, love and democracy,” Solorzano said earlier in the day.
The former Costa Rican leader referred to the disturbances and clashes that occurred on June 16 during the general elections, which forced the TSJ to schedule a repeat vote in several municipalities.
Solis also called on Guatemalans to turn out “massively” to cast their ballots and “enthusiastically” and “freely” express their “sovereign will.”