The election was thrown into chaos on Wednesday evening. [Representation image] gorodenkoff

On Thursday, Guatemala's highest court temporarily halted a ruling that prevented anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arevalo's party from participating in the presidential race.

This decision came in response to widespread international condemnation, which expressed concerns about the country's democratic integrity.

The Constitutional Court announced that it had approved an interim measure requested by the Semilla party, which aimed to overturn a judge's order suspending the party and effectively disqualifying Arevalo from the election.

In a surprising turn of events, Bernardo Arevalo experienced a significant increase in support during the initial round of voting in June, securing a place in the run-off election against former First Lady Sandra Torres, scheduled for Aug. 20.

Arevalo has been vocal about challenging the political establishment, accusing it of corruption.

Numerous analysts believe that if Arevalo is permitted to participate in the election, he stands a good chance of winning.

However, the election took an unexpected twist on Wednesday evening when a lower court granted a prosecutor's request to disqualify the Semilla party.

The allegations against the party claimed that it had over 5,000 illegally affiliated members, including 12 individuals who were deceased, throwing the election into disarray.

Even prior to the exclusion of the Semilla party, the ongoing election had attracted international criticism due to the disqualification of several other opposition candidates during earlier stages of the process.

The decision to exclude Semilla further intensified concerns regarding the state of democracy and justice in Guatemala.

The United States, the European Union, and various other countries voiced their apprehensions, warning that the suspension of Semilla posed a significant threat to democracy.

The G13, a group of international donors to Guatemala that includes the United States, Canada, and Britain, expressed deep concerns about actions that undermined the authority of the electoral tribunal.

Chile and Norway also echoed these concerns, emphasizing the need to safeguard democratic processes.

Before the first round of voting, polls consistently positioned Bernardo Arevalo, a former diplomat and the son of former President Juan Jose Arevalo, as a distant contender. His unexpected second-place finish came as a surprise to Guatemala's political establishment.

In response to the lower court's decision to exclude the Semilla party, Arevalo expressed his belief that this action violated a Guatemalan law that prohibits the suspension of political parties during an ongoing election.

He conveyed this sentiment to reporters earlier on Thursday, asserting that the court's move was in contravention of the existing legislation.

"We are in the electoral race, we are moving forward, and we will not be stopped by this corrupt group," he said.

In an official statement, the administration of outgoing conservative President Alejandro Giammattei declared its intention to maintain a distance from the judicial process and uphold the electoral tribunal's declaration of the election winner. According to Guatemalan law, Giammattei is ineligible to run for another term.

Sandra Torres, Arevalo's opponent in the presidential race, emphasized the importance of respecting the popular vote and announced the suspension of her campaign in solidarity with Semilla voters, Reuters reported.

Corruption allegations have plagued successive administrations in Guatemala. The United States, Guatemala's top trade partner and a significant source of remittances, has consistently criticized what it perceives as efforts to hinder government reform.

In the 2019 presidential election, Semilla's candidate, former attorney general Thelma Aldana, was also disqualified. Aldana had gained a reputation as an anti-corruption advocate and played a role in removing, prosecuting, and imprisoning the conservative former President Otto Perez.

Following the suspension of his party, Arevalo stated that Semilla was aware of a forged signature and had reported the responsible individual in March.

However, he noted that the party was never granted access to the case file, impeding their ability to address the issue effectively.

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