San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemala Elections Head to Runoff Vote

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan social democrat Alvaro Colom and retired Gen. Otto Pérez appear to be headed for a runoff vote in Guatemala’s presidential election, according to preliminary results released Monday by the Supreme Elections Tribunal, or TSE.

Colom, of the National Hope Party (UNE), had 28.24% of the vote compared to right-wing Patriot Party candidate Pérez’ 24.39%, with 85% of the ballots from Sunday’s election counted, the TSE said on its Web site.

Since none of the 14 presidential candidates won an outright majority on Sunday, the two top vote-getters, Colom and Pérez, will now face off in a runoff election scheduled for Nov. 4.

The TSE said final election results would probably not be released until Wednesday. Colom, meanwhile, is predicting that he bested Pérez by more than eight percentage points and has an advantage in the runoff. Pérez, the former general who initially appeared to be the winner as the first vote results came in, had not, as of press time, commented on the elections.

The release of preliminary election results sparked disturbances in several towns in Guatemala, officials said.

Police had to use tear gas to disperse protesters who were unhappy with the results of municipal elections in at least five communities in the interior of the Central American nation.

One of the most serious incidents occurred in the village of El Cerinal, in the eastern province of Jutiapa, where a group of demonstrators set fire to nine ballot boxes to protest alleged election fraud.

In Tucuru, a city in the northern province of Alta Verapaz, several ballot boxes were also set on fire, provincial elections chief Roberto Alvarado said.

Vice-President Eduardo Stein said at least four people were arrested for participating in politically motivated acts of violence on election day.

Guatemalans voted Sunday for a new president and vice president, all 158 members of Congress and 332 mayors.


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