Guatemala City (AP) - In a runoff, Guatemala decides on the successor of its president Jimmy Morales.
Around eight million eligible citizens of the Central American country were called on Sunday to select either the former president's wife Sandra Torres or the former head of the prison administration, Alejandro Giammattei. The vote went according to first reports peacefully and without major incidents. The almost 3000 polling stations close at 2:00 CEST on Monday. A preliminary result is expected during the night.
Torres had won the first round of voting on 16 June with about 25.5 percent of the vote. Her Social Democratic Party (UNE) was by far the strongest force in Congress in the simultaneous parliamentary elections. The conservative candidate Giammattei of the party Vamos came to just under 14 percent. Because no candidate achieved an absolute majority, there was a runoff between the two 63-year-olds.
The winner will assume a four-year term as Head of State and Government next January. Torres would be the first woman in the office. President Morales, who has been in power since 2016, was not allowed to run for a second four-year term because the Guatemalan constitution does not allow re-election.
According to polls, crime, unemployment and corruption play a big role for voters. Another important issue is a controversial migration agreement with the US, which the government signed two weeks ago. As a result, migrants entering Guatemala on their way to the United States can not apply for asylum in the United States, but must do so in Guatemala.
This would particularly affect people from Honduras and El Salvador. The majority of the tens of thousands of migrants coming to Mexico from Mexico each month come from the two countries and Guatemala. Both candidates reject the agreement. It is also challenged before Guatemala's Constitutional Court.
Both candidates have already appeared in presidential elections several times. Against Torres, observers say that many voters are displeased with the traditional political elites to which they belong. Of these, the TV comedian Morales had benefited as a political newcomer in the election in 2015, when he defeated Torres.
Torres is being investigated for illegal campaign financing. Her ex-husband, former president Álvaro Colom (2008 to 2012) - who divorced her to run for office - is charged with corruption. Giammattei also had trouble with the judiciary. He was imprisoned for almost a year for a bloody mission to a detention center while serving as head of the National Prison Administration, but was finally acquitted.