With recent protests, exposure of wide-scale corruption and the resignation of president Otto Peréz Molina, Guatemala is experiencing rapid change. Elections on September 6 will determine the next leader to run the country.
As of September 3, Guatemalan media outlet Prensa Libre predicts previous runner-up Manuel Baldizón, former first lady Sandra Torres and rising underdog Jimmy Morales will move on to the next round of elections. There are 14 candidates in total, including Zury Ríos, daughter of former leader Efraín Ríos Montt.
Before anti-corruption protests escalated, Manuel Baldizón was the frontrunner for Guatemala’s next president. In Guatemala, there has been an unspoken rule that the candidate who came in second in the previous election wins the next one. But a growing anti-corruption sentiment has turned the tide against Baldizón. Polls now predict he will win 22.9 percent of the vote. In late May, a poll predicted he would win 34.5 percent.
Candidate Jimmy Morales’ popularity has soared in recent months. Prensa Libre reports Morales will win 25 percent of the votes on Monday, more than any other candidate. Support for Morales has risen drastically recently because Guatemalans view him as the only candidate who has not been tainted by corruption.
Polls project Sandra Torres, the ex-wife of former president Alvaro Colom, is expected to come in third place in the race with 18.4 percent of the vote. In 2011, Torres divorced Colom to circumvent a law that bans close family members of former presidents from running for office.
Corruption and Clientelism
Although many have protested in urban centers of Guatemala, the country’s rural population has a major say in the elections.
More than 50 percent of Guatemalans live below the poverty line, and these people are particularly susceptible to a vote-buying tactic called clientelism. This is when politicians distribute gifts such as groceries or fertilizer in rural communities in exchange for votes.
Although voting is confidential, this practice is effective in Guatemala and throughout Latin America. This makes it difficult to determine if the demands of outspoken protesters reflect the voice of the entire country.
According to UNICEF, Nearly 25 percent of Guatemalans are illiterate. 50 percent of the population lives outside of urban centers. 48 percent of Guatemalan children experience growth stunting, an indicator of malnutrition.