Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Choosing between terminal illnesses

Beaten into third place in round one, GANA's Alejandro Giamattei gloomily characterised the decision facing Guatemalans in the second round of their Presidential election on November 4 as "like choosing between two terminal illnesses." It now seems however that he would prefer to die by Mano Dura than by Lengua Trabada.

Giamattei's problem as far as I could tell, is that he was just less cuddly than previous winners from the oligarchic centre, such as Berger and Arzú, both men with the demeanor of naughty but forgiveable uncles. He did however carry the capital convincingly on September 9 and Guatemala City's sizeable electorate may yet have the defining say on which of the two remaining candidates will ultimately don the Presidente's sash.

The present election will certainly not affect the most significant unbroken trend in Guatemalan politics in the era of renewed democracy: that each new elected head of state has belonged to a different political party. It has however already broken the more recent pattern of run-offs between populists and oligarchs. Indeed, if anything, the confrontation of Colom and Pérez Molina represents a throwback to the the old military v guerrilla polarity. Over the next couple of days I hope to post profiles of these two men and the personal baggage they bring to their campaigns.

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