Challenges of electoral observation

This year’s general election is unique in Guatemalan history. Since the start of the democratic era, there has never been a greater risk of manipulation and anomalies in the election process. 

The questioning of the electoral authority over the use of discretion in the registration of candidates, the integration of the Departmental Electoral Boards, the opacity of public spending and the inability to penalize political clientelism, premature campaigning and illegal financing. These are some of the facts that pose a problem for the election. 

Added to these problems is the widespread closure of spaces in all Guatemalan state institutions*. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) itself is not immune from this, and has shown signs of lacking transparency and restricting rights in the first phase of the election (candidate registration). 

Given this context, election observation is of the utmost importance, as we don’t find ourselves in a normal situation*. Without the serious questioning of the electoral authority and its management, it is necessary to change the monitoring methods to ensure transparency during the vote.

It is at this historic moment that Electoral Lookout, which has, for decades, been the benchmark for supervision, has become one of the places where citizens can carry out objective election observation. This has been shown by its most recent reports, where it has condemned: the TSE’s use of discretion in the registration of candidates, the renovation and formation of the Electoral Boards, the opacity of public spending and political clientelism as a means of voter manipulation. 

Restricted process 

As a supervisory body, reports are written with the help of civil and community organizations: Citizen Action, Butterfly Wings, Collectives for Transparency and Honesty, Community Press and the National Commissions’ Network, which are all part of the Electoral Lookout. 

Electoral Lookout’s reports show a deterioration within the electoral process. The risks no longer only pertain to the logistics and the counting of the election results, but are now much wider and include the configuration of the electoral system itself. For this reason, it is necessary to maintain spaces for election observation in the long term, which show all these structural failures. 

One should not lose sight of certain issues like disinformation, which could surge, and electoral violence. Both national organizations and the international community will contribute to the  monitoring of electoral violence and unrest throughout the process, including on election day, with a specific focus on people in vulnerable positions.

As citizens, we must understand that without election observation democracy is put at greater risk. The fight is largely against electoral fraud, since the current situation and conditions could jeopardize order and control on election day. Conflicts arise in some voting centers. Everything is documented so as to show the facts. 

Hundreds of volunteers from a number of organizations will be the eyes and ears of millions of Guatemalans. They will monitor the general election on Sunday 25 June and, if no presidential candidate receives at least half of the vote, they will also be involved in the second round on 20 August in all the voting centers. 

If citizens are not capable of demanding greater transparency and independence from the authorities in charge of the electoral process, it is possible that we are witnessing the requiem of democracy. If this is the case, any hope of a better future for our children will be buried.

Eddy Cux is part of Citizen Action and is a member of Electoral Lookout