crowd of people waving Guatemalan flags

Controversy is already swirling around Guatemala’s upcoming presidential election, even before the ballots are cast on June 25.  To date, the judiciary has declared three candidates vying to be president disqualified from seeking the position.   One of the disqualified candidates had been leading in nationwide polls.  The disqualifications sparked concern from multiple international organizations that question whether the upcoming election will be fair.

It is a concern that may also be shared by voters.  New data from WJP’s Rule of Law in Guatemala report shows a majority of Guatemalans (61%) believe top government officials attack or attempt to discredit the electoral system and other supervisory organs. The report is part of a recently released series of rule of law country reports for Latin America and the Caribbean that provide insight into how citizens perceive the rule of law in their respective countries.

According to the 2022 WJP Rule of Law Index, Guatemala ranks 110 out of 140 countries and jurisdictions globally, and 26 out of 32 countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  While the country’s overall score has not changed significantly between 2015 and 2022, the sub-factor measuring whether the transition of power is subject to the law has declined 7% in that time.  Additionally, fundamental freedoms have declined 6% between 2015 and 2022.

graphic with rule of law scores for Guatemala

Of additional concern to human rights groups is the way some candidates in the presidential race are attempting to emulate the “tough on crime” mantra of President Nayib Bukele from neighboring El Salvador. That message may be resonating with Guatemalan voters, according to reports.

The new WJP Guatemala report shows that perceptions of security have increased over time, improving 44% since 2016, but that does not mean crime isn’t an issue in the country.  About a quarter of Guatemalans said they were the victim of a crime in the last year, less than half of them reported the crime to authorities, mainly because they did not think reporting it would help.  

Non-WJP polling suggests the top issues for voters include economic concerns and crime and insecurity.  With 22 candidates vying for the presidency, it is likely Guatemalans will have to wait until a runoff election in August to learn who will lead the new government responsible for addressing those concerns.

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