Guatemala Votes

With anti-corruption frontrunner disqualified, voters look for options.

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As rising numbers of Central American migrants arrive at the US border seeking asylum, the discussion in the United States has focused on Mexico. Relatively little attention has been paid, however, to the source of the crisis, the nations from which thousands are fleeing crime, drug gangs, and extreme poverty. For instance, despite the Trump Administration's recent tariff showdown with Mexico and an announcement nearly two weeks ago that US Department of Homeland Service agents would deploy on training missions to assist Guatemalan authorities handling the migrant crisis, online attention to the Guatemala-Mexico border has remained flat.

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On June 16, Guatemalans will head to the polls to elect mayors, legislators, and a new president. The primary issue in the race is corruption, and the frontrunner was Thelma Aldana, a former Attorney General who had launched corruption investigations into hundreds of powerful elites and government officials during her tenure. Then in March, a judge issued a warrant for her arrest while she was in El Salvador, and the Constitutional Court suspended her candidacy. The charges relate to alleged malfeasance while she was Attorney General.

Predata signals track the relative level of online interest in the major presidential candidates and issues. The signals are not public opinion polls, simply measures of how salient a candidate or issue is to internet users at a particular time. The signal tracking interest in Aldana has fallen to its lowest level of the year after the Constitutional Court upheld its decision to suspend her candidacy. That may be a sign that voters are resigned to the reality of her disqualification and have moved on.

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With Aldana out of the race, the frontrunner is former First Lady, Sandra Torres. Still, Torres, who faces corruption charges, is historically unpopular, and after the disqualification of Aldana, digital interest in Torres did not rise as we might expect it would if there was renewed excitement about her prospects. Instead, interest rose in other leading candidates, suggesting erstwhile Aldana supporters were scrambling to find a better option.

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With Torres apparently failing to stir a surge in interest and 49 percent of likely voters saying they will not vote for her, it’s highly unlikely any candidate will cross the 50 percent threshold needed to avert a runoff.