Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) suspended the political party of president-elect Bernardo Arevalo on Monday while also affirming his victory in the August 20 vote, a resolution from the body said.
The move is unlikely to impact Arevalo’s swearing in as president on January 14 but unless resolved it could limit his party’s ability to preside over committees in Congress.
A TSE resolution said Arevalo’s Movimiento Semilla, or Seed Movement, party had been provisionally suspended — a move blasted by Arevalo as “illegal.”
“There is a process of political persecution” weaponizing the justice system “against the Movimiento Semilla and against our candidacy,” he told a news conference.
Arevalo, a 64-year-old sociologist and former diplomat, had campaigned against government corruption by the political establishment, a message that resonated with voters seeking fresh faces in power.
Ahead of the vote, he accused authorities of political persecution, after prosecutors tried to suspend Semilla and ordered raids against his party offices.
After the first round of voting on June 25, Guatemalan judge Fredy Orellana, at the request of prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche — both on a US list of “corrupt actors” — ordered the electoral court to suspend Semilla amid an investigation into alleged anomalies in its registration as a party.
The court did not comply with the judge’s order, saying a party could not be suspended in the middle of the election, which went to a run-off on August 20.
With the election over, however, authorities complied with Orellana’s order.
Meanwhile, the party of Sandra Torres, who came in second in the runoff, has alleged fraud in the August vote which saw her defeat.
But TSE Secretary General Mario Velasquez said in a news conference Monday that Arevalo’s triumph was legal and that he would take office.
“We are witnessing the last thrusts of the corrupt system that co-opted public institutions for decades and is now using the judicial system illegally against Semilla,” Guatemala City council member-elect Nino Matute, a Semilla party member, told AFP.
“They are pushing citizens’ resistance to the limit, which could easily lead to a social explosion,” she said.
The same day as the TSE’s ruling, the Constitutional Court rejected a request by Attorney General Consuelo Porras — also considered corrupt by Washington, and whose office has led the lawsuits against Semilla — to stop the protests against her as well as calls on social media for her resignation.
Porras had argued the actions amounted to “obstruction of justice.”
Arevalo is set to succeed outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei, ending 12 years of right-wing rule.