As expected, retired General Otto Perez Molina of the conservative Partido Patriotico won the run-off election in Guatemala. With 98% of the votes counted, Perez Molina finished with 54% of the vote to Manuel Baldizon’s 46%. Perez Molina is the first military officer to serve as president of Guatemala in 25 years; however, unlike his predecessors who took power in a coup, Perez Molina won through open democratic practices.
In Nicaragua, in an outcome that’s equally unsurprising, Daniel Ortega has won a third term as president. However, that election has not gone as smoothly; with only 36% of the votes counted, Ortega was already claiming victory with 65% of the vote total. Additionally independent outside observers were prevented from monitoring the full elections, and accusations of a lack of transparency are already being leveled at the administration, with the opposition threatening to not recognize the official results. Additionally, a second Ortega term means it is unlikely women are unlikely to see any improvements in their rights or status in society, as the first Ortega term oversaw the enforcement of a 2006 law banning all abortions and the Sandinista-led Supreme Court’s downgrading of rape to a crime of passion.
It will be worth watching both countries going forward to see how a democratically-elected general leads a country with a devastating history of military violence against civilians in the case of Guatemala, and to see what the outcome of the election investigations and a second consecutive Ortega term looks like in the case of Nicaragua.