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Congreso de la República (Congress of the Republic)

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Parliament name (generic / translated) Congreso de la República / Congress of the Republic
Structure of parliament Unicameral
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 11 September 2011
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all the seats of the Congress of the Republic on the normal expiry of the members' term of office.
As in previous elections, the 2011 parliamentary elections were held in parallel with the presidential polls. At stake were 158 seats in the Congress of the Republic.

In the previous elections held in September 2007, the National Unity of Hope (UNE) took 51 of the 158 seats in the Congress of the Republic. The then President Óscar Berger's Great National Alliance (GANA) came in second with 35 seats, winning four more than Mr. Otto Pérez Molina's Patriotic Party (PP). The remainder went to small parties. In the run-off presidential elections, UNE leader, Mr. Álvaro Colom, defeated Mr. Pérez (PP), becoming the first leftist president since the end of the 1960-1996 civil war. Mr. Colom was sworn in in January 2008, pledging to implement a comprehensive "human solidarity programme" to deal with crime and achieve security in the country.

Mr. Colom's presidency was rocked in May 2009, when the local media aired a video of an assassinated lawyer, recorded before the latter's death, claiming that the President and other government officials had been trying to kill him. Thousands of protesters demanded the President's resignation. Subsequent investigations cleared the President of any involvement in the case.

The UNE and the GANA formed an electoral coalition for the 2011 elections. According to the Guatemalan Constitution, the incumbent President is barred from seeking re-election and the members of a president's extended family are not eligible for the presidency. In March 2011, First Lady Sandra Torres filed a divorce application with a family court, which was accepted in April. Mr. Pérez (PP) denounced the divorce as an act of "fraud" to make Ms. Torres eligible for the presidency. The UNE-GANA coalition subsequently endorsed Ms. Torres as its presidential candidate. However, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) refused to register her candidature. On 30 July, the Supreme Court backed the TSE decision, stating that the relationship between the President and Ms. Torres still existed despite the divorce. Consequently, no presidential candidate ran under the banner of the ruling coalition.

Other major contenders in the 2011 elections were the PP, once again led by Mr. Pérez, the Renewed Democratic Liberty (LIDER), formed in 2008 by a former UNE parliamentarian, Mr. Manuel Antonio Baldizón; the Commitment, Renewal and Order party (CREO), led by Mr. Eduardo Suger; and the Nationalist Change Union (UCN) of Mr. Mario Estrada. The leaders of these parties were also running for the presidency.

Widespread violence and the growing threat of organized crime were major election issues in 2011. In 2010, murders accounted for 42 of every 1,000 deaths, one of the highest rates in the world.

The UNE-GANA coalition pledged to combat poverty and social inequality and build a safer Guatemala by fighting drug trafficking, violence and organized crime. However, the absence of a presidential candidate pushed the UNE-GANA's electoral campaign to the back burner.

The PP, led by Mr. Pérez - a former military general who had commanded government troops during the civil war - vowed to adopt a tough approach (mano dura) to Mexican drug cartels operating in Guatemala. Mr. Pérez called for a larger role for elite units of the military in the crackdown.

The LIDER, led by Mr. Baldizón - a 41 year-old lawyer and businessman and the youngest candidate in 2011 - launched a crime-fighting plan called "Security Now!". Mr. Baldizón, originally from Peten (a region heavily dominated by drug-trafficking) underscored the importance of enforcing the death penalty, promising 10 executions per month.

UCN leader Estrada promised to curb the high crime rate, provide better hospital care and greater security. He had served as Head of the Social Development Secretariat under former President Alfonso Portillo, but that government office was closed after a mere 10 months amid corruption allegations. His ties to the former President and the latter's trial on corruption charges cast a shadow over the UCN campaign in 2011.

Mr. Eduardo Suger, the 72 year-old CREO leader, pledged to take a comprehensive approach to fighting poverty, providing better health care, education, and infrastructure. It is estimated that 43 per cent of children under five years of age in Guatemala are chronically malnourished.

On 11 September, 69.34 per cent of the 7.3 million registered voters turned out at the polls.

The final results gave 56 seats to the PP and 48 to the UNE-GANA coalition. The LIDER and the UCN took 14 seats each, followed by CREO with 12. Six other parties won fewer than six seats each.

None of the presidential candidates secured the required majority of votes in the first round. Run-off elections are due on 6 November between Mr. Pérez (PP) and Mr. Baldizón (LIDER), who secured 36 and 23 per cent of the votes respectively. On 20 September, the UNE-GANA coalition announced that it would support Mr. Baldizón in the run-off.

On 6 November, Mr. Pérez (PP) won the run-off elections.

On 14 January 2012, Mr. Pérez was officially sworn in.

On the same day, the newly-elected Congress of the Republic held its first session and elected Mr. Gudy Rivera Estrada (PP) as its new Speaker.
Voter turnout
Round no 111 September 2011
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
5'090'030 (69.34%)
Distribution of votes
Round no 1
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Patriotic Party (PP) 1'171'337 26.62
National Unity for Hope Party (UNE) - Great National Alliance (GANA) 993'198 22.57
Nationalist Change Union (UCN) 417'935 9.50
Democratic Renewed Liberty (LIDER) 390'319 8.87
Commitment, Renewal and Order (CREO) 381'652 8.67
Vision with Values (VIVA) - Encounter for Guatemala (EG) 346'557 7.87
WINAQ-URNG-MAIZ-ANN 141'938 3.23
National Advancement Party (PAN) 137'390 3.12
Unionist Party (UNIONISTA) 118'788 2.70
Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) 120'455 2.74
Victory (Victoria) 71'501 1.62
Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total
Patriotic Party (PP) 56
National Unity for Hope Party (UNE) - Great National Alliance (GANA) 48
Nationalist Change Union (UCN) 14
Democratic Renewed Liberty (LIDER) 14
Commitment, Renewal and Order (CREO) 12
Vision with Values (VIVA) - Encounter for Guatemala (EG) 6
National Advancement Party (PAN) 2
Unionist Party (UNIONISTA) 1
Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) 1
Victory (Victoria) 1
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
Distribution of seats according to profession

*WINAQ-URNG-MAIZ-ANN comprises WINAQ, the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG)- Broad Left Movement (MAIZ) and the New Nation Alternative (ANN).

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