An unexpected development in the Central American republic of Guatemala came yesterday (4 March) when the government stopped issuing results from the presidential elections.
An unexpected development in the Central American republic of Guatemala came yesterday (4 March) when the government stopped issuing results from the presidential elections. This development came after the principal opposition candidate, General Effrain Rios Montt, made allegations of fraud in connection with the conduct of the elections. He accused the government of holding back voting papers in same areas.
There had been a good turn-out as Guatemala's 1,500,000 voters went to the polls on Sunday (3 March) to elect a new President from three candidates. General Rios Montt, 47, a former Army Chief of Staff, was nominated by the left-wing Christian Democratic Party. The ruling conservative coalition backed General Kjell Laugerud, 44, and the Centrist Revolution Party chose Colonel Ernesto Paiz Novales, 53.
The official results gave General Laugerud an early lead with 71,296 votes, against General Rios Montt's 32,187 and 16,528 for Colonel Paiz Novales.
However General Rios Montt's party said that their own count of Guatemala's 325 Municipalities suggested that the Opposition leader had 52.6 per cent of the vote against only 28.2 per cent for General Laugerud and 16 per cent for Colonel Paiz Novales.
General Rios Montt had said in advance of the elections that he expected the government to cheat, but despite the tensions and heavy police guards, polling day passed quietly.
Drama started to build up, though, when the election results were stopped. About 3,000 peasants threatened to march from the Presidential Palace to the Municipal Building in protest and General Rios Montt warned that violence would erupt if the government cheated.
Guatemala has a bloody history of left and right wing violence coupled with frequent palace coups and the armed forces have always played a key role in the affairs of the country.