Guatemalans have voted in Alejandro Giammattei of the Vamos party as the country’s next president, hoping he will be able to address the issues of crime and security, as well as the concerns around his human rights record.
The 63-year-old conservative candidate and former surgeon won a runoff election with 58.26 percent of the votes after 98 percent of voting centres had been counted. He defeated former First Lady Sandra Torres from the centrist National Unity of Hope party, who received about 40 percent of the votes.
“Today is a new period of the country,” he told supporters at the party’s headquarters in Guatemala City following his victory.
“Those who voted for us, those who did not vote for us, and those who did not go to vote, it does not matter. Today we need to unite, today I am the president of all Guatemalans.”
This is the fourth time that Giammattei has run for president of the Central American country – which is plagued by violence, poverty, and corruption. He has had multiple sclerosis for years and is reliant on crutches.
Giammattei will assume office on January 14, 2020.
Many who voted for him saw their votes as a vote against Torres, who stands accused of corruption and campaign finance violations during her 2015 presidential run against current President Jimmy Morales.
“I decided to vote against Sandra Torres because of the accusations of corruption,” Rosa Julaju, an indigenous Kaqchikel woman who lives in Guatemala City told Al Jazeera.
“I hope Giammattei confronts the violence in our country,” the 38-year-old street vendor said. “I voted for him for better security.”
Giammattei’s campaign focused on being tough on crime, promising to treat gang members “like terrorists”, legalise the death penalty and to bring in more funding to combat migration from Guatemala. For voters like Julaju, it is his stance on crime that contributed to her reasons to vote for him.
Republic of Guatemala:
President: Alejandro Giammattei
Vice President: Jafeth Cabrera
Capital: Guatemala City
Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
Official languages: Spanish