With both candidates part of the political establishment, significant changes to the country’s economic policies are unlikely
As there is no incumbent advantage and margins remain tight in Guatemala’s presidential election, firms should remain in wait-and-see mode and engage in scenario planning until a clearer picture emerges after the Torres-Arévalo runoff. In the upcoming days, the quetzal may see some short-term depreciation. Regardless of who ultimately wins, it is unlikely that Guatemala’s next president will implement major changes to the country’s economic policies. In the event of a Barnardo Arévalo win, he may seek to pursue greater anti-corruption charges, but those initiatives will also need Congressional endorsement, which may significantly water down any potential legislation.
On June 25, Guatemalan voters went to the polls to elect new mayors, lawmakers, and a successor to President Alejandro Giamettei, who is constitutionally limited to one presidential term. As expected, in a highly crowded field with over 20 candidates, the presidential election is headed to a runoff that will be held on August 20. According to the preliminary results released by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, with close to 90% of the votes processed, Sandra Torres, candidate for the National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, leads with 15.3% of the votes. She will face career diplomat Arévalo, candidate of the Semilla party, who so far has obtained 12.1% of the votes and was a surprise finalist, as he was not among the top favorites by the polls. Aside from reaching a participation rate of only 57% (lower than the 62% seen in 2019), the election registered a high rate of null votes (17.5%) and white votes (7.1%), a reflection of the lack of interest and distrust in the electoral process.
Both candidates embody Guatemala’s political establishment: Torres was Guatemala’s first lady between 2008 and 2011 and was previously a candidate for Guatemala’s presidency in 2015 and 2019, while Arévalo is the son of former President Juan José Arévalo and a current congressman. Therefore, as neither candidate is a political outsider, they are unlikely to make significant changes to the country’s economic policies. With the runoffs scheduled for August 20, neither candidate is heavily favored at this point. From a policy standpoint, Torres—the runner-up in the previous two elections—will likely focus on campaigning on issues of expanding cash transfer programs, funding educational projects, and creating microcredit products aimed at women. These programs will continue to help her consolidate support in rural areas. Arévalo, whose support stems much more from urban centers, has campaigned more heavily on anti-corruption measures, employment generation through infrastructure investment, and public investment. Additionally, the preliminary results point to a fragmented Congress, which will likely make governing relations challenging regardless of who Guatemala’s next president is.
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