It's over three long months until the elections on September 11, but I have already had it up to here (you can imagine a hand marking the spot) with electioneering. In the past week, the parties have stepped up their public campaigning, which seems to consist primarily of paying a bunch of people to stand out along a highway or, in the case of Antigua, along the Alameda Sta. Lucia, the divided boulevard that runs alongside the municipal market, wearing t-shirts in the party's color or colors, waving flags on wooden sticks, and generally jumping around and making a lot of noise. Sometimes the paid campaigners are accompanied by sound systems, blaring music to further animate (and annoy, although that is probably not the intention, it is one of the results). I think the word "supporters" is inappropriate in this context; while there may be individuals who do actually support the party for which they are making a public demonstration, most are doing it for the money. However, by making this distinction, I do not mean to suggest that people may not ultimately vote for the party that has purchased their enthusiasm.
Yesterday as I was driving around the central part of Guatemala City, there was apparently some big political event at the Barceló Convention Center in Zona 9, and the sidewalk and streets in front were thronged with people bearing the orange shirts of the Partido Patriota (far right party headed by a war criminal who looks like he will, unfortunately, become the next president, and a bit further on, the green t-shirts of the UNE-GANA coalition, whose candidate is the "ex" wife of the current president -- ex in quotes because they divorced solely so that Sandra Torres, formerly Sandra Torres de Colom, would not automatically be disqualified as a candidate. However, her candidacy has been called into question this week because of some apparently irregularities in the nominations process. Never a dull moment in Guatemalan politics.
In the evening, as I was heading back to Antigua, finally in possession of a new car (i.e. pick up), traffic along the highway out of tow was halted for a long while, more so than usual. The cause of the slowdown were throngs of paid political enthusiasts alongside the highway. Damn, I thought to myself. This appears to be a really counterproductive campaigning strategy. Do parties really think that they will gain support by pissing commuters off and making their lives even more miserable? If I were a Guatemalan voter, the hordes along the highways would have the reverse effect: I would be turned off by whichever party or parties had done the most to make my life miserable, and would probably vote for whichever candidate had made the least obstruction to my daily routine.