Guatemala is a republic with strong
presidential power. The constitution guarantees civil
liberties, but amendments that were intended to
consolidate large parts of the 1996 peace agreement have
not yet been adopted. Thus, the indigenous peoples still
lack special constitutional protection for, among other
things, culture and language, and the military's power
has not been limited by law either.
The president is head of state and government as well
as commander-in-chief, and appoints his own ministers.
The President is elected, along with a Vice President in
general elections, every four years. For victory in the
first round of elections, at least half of the votes are
required, otherwise a second round will be held between
the two candidates who received the most votes. The
president cannot be re-elected.
Total population and chart of Guatemala for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The Legislative Congress consists of
a chamber whose members are also elected for four years
in proportional elections, held simultaneously with the
presidential election. The number of members will be
increased in the 2019 election from 158 to 160.
Voting rights should apply to anyone over the age of
18 who are not military, but tough rules previously
prevented many poor people from voting. Following a
reform before the 2007 elections, the number of polling
stations almost doubled, leading to significantly higher
turnout in rural areas, not least among the indigenous
Guatemala is divided into 22 provinces governed by a
government appointed by the government. The 340
municipalities are governed by elected mayors.
The political parties in Guatemala rarely have a
strong ideological foundation and are usually not
persistent. Since 1986, no party has held power for more
than one term. When members were elected to Congress, it
was common for them to switch parties if it provided
them with economic benefits. The first year after the
2011 election, around half of the 158 members of
Congress passed to other parties. A new electoral law
that was passed in 2016 will put a stop to such swaps -
it was forbidden for parties to receive members elected
for another party.
Due to a corruption scandal in the then ruling party
(see below), a lot was put on hold just before the 2015
election, which contributed to a previously politically
inexperienced candidate showing up at the end of the
election campaign and winning the presidential election.
Jimmy Morales, an actor and celebrity from television,
was a candidate for the National Convergence
Front (Frente de Convergencia Nacional,
FCN), a small conservative party formed in 2004
by members of a military veterans association, Avemilgua.
Guatemala was ruled in 2012-2015 by President Otto
Pérez Molina and the right-wing Liberal
Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota, PP).
The party was founded by Pérez Molina in 2001. In the
2003 election, PP was part of the victorious
Great National Alliance (Gran Alianza Nacional,
Ghana), a collaboration between three
bourgeois parties that were close to business. After the
election, however, PP left the alliance. The PP won both
the presidential and congressional elections in 2011 but
before the 2015 elections, the party's chances of being
reelected when the corruption scandal was rolled up. It
ended with a warrant being issued for Pérez Molina, who
resigned and was arrested just days before the election
(see further Current Policy).
After the victory in 2003, Gana was transformed into
a party that became second largest in the next elections
but has since lost in importance.
Between 2007 and 2011, the National Union of
Social Democratic Hope ruled (Unidad
Nacional de la Esperanza, UNE). It was
the first time since the coup in 1954 that a center-left
grouping was in power. UNE was formed in 2001 from a
election collaboration between the former guerrilla
Revolutionary National Guatemalan Unit
(Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca,
URNG) and a few other groups. URNG also remains
as a smaller party. UNE won the election in 2007 when
Álvaro Colom became president and has become the second
largest party in Congress in the following two
elections. UNE is led by Sandra Torres, who is Colom's
former wife. Torres was the UNE presidential candidate
in 2019 and received the most votes in the first round,
but was defeated in the second (see below).
Breakers from UNE formed a new independent group in
2009, called Renewed Democratic Freedom
(Libertad Democrática Renovada, Líder).
The party came in third place in the 2011 congressional
election and its candidate Manuel Baldizón came in
second place in the presidential election. He led the
polls long before the 2015 presidential election, but in
the end did not even advance to the second round.
However, Líder became the largest party in Congress.
In 2016, the Electoral Court ordered that both Líder
and the former ruling party PP be dissolved, because
they violated election financing laws.
Several new right-wing parties were then formed,
among them: Valor (Value),
Humanista (or Partido Humanista de Guatemala)
and Vamos (really Vamos por una
Guatemala Diferente, roughly We bet on a different
Guatemala). Vamo's 2019 presidential candidate was
Alejandro Giammettei, who has run three times before,
for three other parties. This time he won the second
round of Torres. Giammattei, who is considered to have
close ties to the military, took office as president in
Presidential candidate for Valor in 2019 was Zury
Ríos, daughter of ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and
former congressman for his now disbanded party FRG, see
Modern History, until the Constitutional Court shut her
down a month before the election (see Calendar).
Humanista was formed by a former national police chief
under Alfonso Portillo; party candidate in the 2019
election was diplomat Edmond Mulet.
Two other right-wing parties are Union for
National Change (Unión del Cambio Nacional,
UCN) and National Prosperity
(Bienestar Nacional, Bien), whose most
well-known name is ex-president Alfonso Portillo.
In November 2018, Semilla
(Movimiento Semilla, approximately the Seed movement)
was formally registered. The party has sprung from the
protests that led to President Pérez Molina's departure,
identifying himself as a center-left party that
emphasizes democracy, equality, diversity and
anti-corruption. Semilla's presidential candidate was
former State Prosecutor Thelma Aldana, who played a
central role in the corruption charge against Pérez
Molina in 2015, but she was also disqualified a month
before the election (see Calendar).
Another new party in the 2019 elections was the
Movement for the Liberation of the People
(Movimiento para Liberación de los Pueblos, MLP),
a left-wing party representing the indigenous peoples.
Party candidate Thelma Cabrera came in fourth place in
the presidential election.
READING TIP - read more about
Guatemala in the UI's web magazine Foreign
magazine : Amnestilag challenges fight
against impunity in Guatemala (2019 - 03 -