Guatemala’s presidential election on Sunday produced no clear winner, and will head to a runoff in August between a former first lady of the country and a former prisons director.
Whoever wins, the results could spell the end for Guatemala’s dozen-year experiment in combating corruption and establishing rule of law — a United Nations-backed panel of international prosecutors.
The panel, the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, has been investigating the endemic graft that systematically siphons money from the state.
Polls show that as many as 70 percent of Guatemalans approve of the commission, which, working together with the attorney general’s office, has prosecuted more than 100 cases, bringing charges against some 700 people involved in more than 60 criminal networks.
But neither of the candidates in the runoff has declared support for the commission, widely known as Cicig.
In the runoff, Sandra Torres, the former first lady, will compete against Alejandro Giammattei, the former prisons director. Ms. Torres won nearly 26 percent of the vote and Mr. Giammattei got 14 percent. Both have been in the sights of Cicig.
Ms. Torres, 63, who was making her second run for the presidency, was accused of campaign finance violations connected to her losing presidential campaign in 2015. The charges were not filed until after she began her campaign, giving her immunity as a candidate.
Mr. Giammattei, 63, was in charge of Guatemala’s prisons while an execution squad composed of high-ranking officials ordered the killing of prisoners. Although other government officials were convicted, a judge ordered the case against Mr. Giammattei dropped for lack of evidence. This is his fourth run for the presidency.
The race was fragmented, with 19 candidates vying for the presidency in Sunday’s vote. Two of the leading contenders were blocked from running by the courts.
One of those was the former attorney general, Thelma Aldana, who worked alongside Cicig to prosecute high-profile politicians and was widely seen as the strongest candidate against corruption.
Political enemies filed a slew of bureaucratic accusations against Ms. Aldana and succeeded in tying up her candidacy.
Guatemalans also voted Sunday for candidates to their 160-seat legislature and for 340 mayors.
The Cicig term in Guatemala expires in September. President Jimmy Morales, who has also been accused of campaign finance violations by the panel, said last year that he would not renew its mandate.
Mr. Morales, who will hand over the presidency in January, has been deeply unpopular, and has directed much of his government’s energies over the past two years to trying to strip Cicig of its authority.
If the Cicig leaves, “it would represent a serious setback and a very bad precedent in the fight against corruption, not only in Guatemala but in the while Central American region,” wrote Daniel Zovatto, the director of Latin America for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, on Twitter.