Guatemala’s top elections court on Sunday temporarily lifted its disqualification of the party of president-elect Bernardo Arevalo, who was elected on an anti-graft platform last month.
The court announced the move after Arevalo on Friday denounced an “ongoing coup” by the country’s institutions to block him from taking power, after his Semilla political party was suspended.
When elections were called earlier this year, the court said the multi-stage electoral process would formally end on October 31, even though voting is now over and there is a winner. The date was seen as a mere formality.
“It is not reasonable or prudent to challenge the status of political organizations… until the electoral process is over,” Supreme Electoral Tribunal spokesman Luis Gerardo Ramirez said.
Arevalo pulled off a big upset by advancing to the runoff after a first round marked by apathy among voters. Poverty, violence and corruption push thousands of Guatemalans abroad every year in search of a better life, many to the United States.
After the first round of voting on June 25, Guatemalan judge Fredy Orellana, at the request of prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, ordered the electoral tribunal to suspend Semilla pending an investigation into alleged anomalies in its party registration.
That suspension was only confirmed, however, once voting was over. Orellana and Curruchiche are both on a US list of “corrupt actors,” and foreign allies slammed their involvement as meddling in the election process.
Semilla members welcomed the lifting of the ban on their party, even if it is not definitive. Nino Matute, a Semilla lawmaker in the capital, said democracy in Guatemala “is fighting its best battle, with the support of honest and decent people in this country.”
Arevalo said last Friday, “we are seeing an ongoing coup, in which the justice apparatus is used to violate justice itself, mocking the popular will freely expressed at the polls.”
Analysts said the suspension of his party would not prevent Arevalo from taking up the presidential reins in January, but would impede his Semilla party’s work in Congress.
While suspended, the party cannot issue statements or collect money. “They are weakening and denying the resources, authority and legitimacy that the people of Guatemala have legally conferred upon us,” Arevalo said.
The head of the electoral mission to Guatemala for the Organization of American States (OAS), Eladio Loizaga, has warned about a possible “break in the constitutional order in Guatemala.”
The Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said Arevalo and his deputy Karin Herrera “are being subjected to stigmatization, harassment, hounding, public disclosure of personal details on social media, and threats including two specific plans to hurt them and even kill them.”
The government said in a statement that “necessary measures” had been taken in coordination with police to boost their protection.