Yankee great Yogi Berra famously said, "It ain't over until it's over." And so seems to be the case with the Guatemalan elections. I think most people across the political spectrum knew or thought that the presidential race would involve a second round, but perhaps we were not all prepared for the number of "second round" races at the mayoral level. In my small town, the current mayor, who ran for re-election, is with the "official party" -- UNE (that is, the party of the current president, Alvaro Colóm). Because there was some dispute about the vote count, and supporters of another party burned some of the ballots, rumor had it that there was going to be a run-off.
In the national newspapers this week, there were reports that about 20 municipalities were going to repeat their mayoral contests, but the paper specifically noted that Chinique was not going to have a run-off. According to the published report, since only 6 of 14 ballot boxes had been destroyed, that meant that over 60% of the ballots had been counted and so the TSE determined that the results were valid.
However, this morning, I talked to my friend Caterino, who had been a poll watcher, and has also been a lifelong resident of Chinique, and he told me that there was going to be a run-off. So I will wait and see. I've heard differing opinions about the current mayor. A friend from the Maya community in the U.S. insists that he is a leftist and a good guy. Caterino and some others who live hear think that he is not a bad guy but has done absolutely nothing -- nothing bad, necessarily, but nothing good either. An acquaintance who is a supporter of the Partido Patriota (yeah, I know some people who support the Evil Empire, but I have not gotten into deep political conversations with them. I have indicated that my sympathies are elsewhere but I have not wanted to close off conversations with them.) says that the problem with the election results was that the mayor bought votes, and that he also brought people in who were not residents of the municipality to vote (the latter charge was one that we heard from the Frente Amplio poll watchers in Zacualpa, where I think the current mayor is also with UNE). The women in the women's associations of the surrounding communities think that he has not fulfilled his promises to do something for women in the municipality, and I can testify that he was certainly unwilling to meet with the the women, the two times I accompanied them to his office. He was either "in a meeting" or "out of the office" (even though there is only one entrance and he had been seen entering but not leaving the municipal building; we joked that maybe he had climbed out a window). Another time when the women went, they reported that his secretary had said he was performing a wedding.
So, perhaps not the most effective elected official. And we will see what the outcome of the next round will be.
Meanwhile, Donña Matilde told me she had gone to Zacualpa yesterday, where there had been more extreme electoral violence as people were very unhappy with the outcome of the elections. She said that the army was patrolling the streets to keep the calm; I commented that it seemed like they had instituted a mini state of siege (there was a state of siege in Alta Verapaz for the first several months I was here, and as part of our security briefing from the Embassy -- an obligatory part of our Fulbright commitment -- they warned us against traveling there; and in May, after the massacre of 27 farmworkers on a finca in the Petén, the president declared a state of siege there also).