Conservative Giammattei wins Guatemalan presidential election


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Conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei won the second round of Guatemala’s presidential election on Sunday.

With 95 per cent of precincts counted, Giammattei took some 59 per cent of the vote, according to the electoral commission.

It was fifth time lucky for Giammattei. The 63-year-old former head of the country’s prison system failed in four previous bids for the presidency.

Left-leaning former first lady Sandra Torres, 63, took nearly 26 per cent of the vote.

“The moment of God has come,” Giammattei said at a press conference on Sunday evening. “We will rebuild the country.”

Giammattei will succeed President Jimmy Morales, whom the constitution bars from seeking re-election.

Neither candidate aroused great enthusiasm in the Central American country of 17 million residents, as both of them are familiar faces linked to high-level scandals.

Torres is under investigation for alleged campaign finance violations.

She divorced then-president Alvaro Colom in 2011 to be able to run, as the constitution bars sitting presidents’ spouses from succeeding them.

Giammattei headed Guatemala’s penitentiary system from 2005 to 2007.

He was jailed and then exonerated after a police operation at a prison led to the deaths of seven inmates while he was at the helm.

Neither candidate is believed to want to reverse Morales’ decision to expel the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which helped to launch a massive anti-corruption drive and brought down then-president Otto Perez Molina in 2015.

The CICIG also started investigating the campaign financing of Morales, who has accused the commission of getting involved in politics and announced he will not renew its mandate when it expires in September.

Guatemala has a poverty rate of nearly 60 per cent, according to the World Bank.

The homicide rate went down slightly, to 22 killings per 100,000 residents in 2018, but still remains high.

About 8 million people were eligible to vote.

Election results are expected late Sunday or on Monday.

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