June 30, 2011, 10:02 p.m.
Guatemala’s Elections: Clean Polls, Dirty Politics looks at the upcoming elections for the president, the congress and local elections in Guatemala in September 2011. While the elections will most likely be declared free and fair there are reasons to be apprehensive that those elected will be deeply influenced by unregulated political financing. The paper states the fact that elections in Guatemala are among the costliest which requires those who run for office to rely on those with resources, thereby indebting the elected official to those who supported them. Efforts to combat these outsides influences could include requiring candidates to list where their funds are coming from and putting limits on campaign funds. The political parties in and of themselves are not strong and candidates switch back and forth between parties at will.
Unregulated political finance poses a threat more subtle than violence but as dangerous to political life. Reforms have required parties to limit campaign spending and reveal their financial backers, but politicians disregard the new rules with impunity. Recent election campaigns have been among the costliest, per capita, on the continent, and spending in 2011 looks set to outstrip even previous records, skewing the playing field and – worse still – leaving politicians beholden to shadowy business and criminal interests, many of which are vested in continued lawlessness and a weak state. Political parties provide no protection. Fragmented, disorderly, unrepresentative and largely ideology-free, they offer little to link state and society beyond populism and patronage. Unrestrained money in politics contributes to a rotten and exclusive system that reasonably free voting every few years does little to hide, let alone reform.