Originally published in La Hora oh January 3th.
In 2022, there will be three events to watch: the selection process of the next attorney general, the pandemic, and the electoral landscape for the 2023 election.
The selection process to elect the next attorney general will start in the coming weeks. First, Congress will swear a Nomination Committee. This committee has 15 members: 12 deans of the law schools, the president of the Supreme Court, the Court of Honor of the Bar Association’s president, and the president of the Board of Directors of the Bar Association. They must prepare a list of six candidates from which the president will appoint the attorney general for 2022-2026.
Two-thirds make decisions in the Nomination Committee, which means that ten votes out of 15 will be necessary to make any relevant decision. In another column, I hope to address the issue in greater detail.
Some speculate whether or not the current attorney general (included in a list of corrupt and undemocratic actors by the US government) will run for reelection. The relevant question is if the nomination committee would include her in the final list of six eligible.
Although the Law on Nomination Commissions sets some evaluation criteria, the nomination committee has some leeway to decide what specific aspects to ponder. Let us remember, for example, that in 2014 the commission did not include the then-attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, among the list of six eligible.
The second key issue is the pandemic. The risks of the omicron variant are still unknown. Some data suggest that it is more contagious but less lethal than the previous variants. Although experts suggest that viruses transmitted by air tend to mutate towards more contagious but less lethal variants, it is not ruled out that a variant may complicate things.
Still, it appears that vaccination is the only route to get around the pandemic. As more of the population acquires a certain level of immunity, it will be easier to live with the virus. Guatemala still exhibits surprisingly low vaccination rates. According to Our World In Data, only 36% of the population has received at least one dose, and only 26% have received the full schedule.
Finally, we should pay attention to the electoral alliances considering that general elections will be held in 2023. So far, the ruling party has a solid coalition of 12 political parties in Congress that has allowed it to govern comfortably. We expect this to continue. However, given that there is no presidential reelection in Guatemala, it is common to see some factions begin to move their chips with a view to the next elections.
The fate of the UNE party (second in the 2019 presidential election) is another topic to follow now that Sandra Torres has won the game over those who planted internal opposition. The party has to fight a cancelation process for administrative infractions. If the party does not survive a cancellation process, it remains to be seen if Torres finds another electoral vehicle.
We should also remember that Torres still faces criminal charges of violating campaign finance rules for events in the 2015 campaign. Recent jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court favors her.
Congress modified the campaign financing regulations in 2018. In similar cases, the court has ruled that criminal prosecution cannot be mounted for irregular electoral financing prior beforedue to the principle of non-retroactivity of the law (she is being charged for events of the 2015 campaign).
It will also be necessary to pay attention to the future that the «National Opposition Front» may have, led by congressman Carlos Barreda (UNE party). So far, the opposition has been weak and disorganized. And of course, we will have to keep our eyes on the favorite virtual candidates like Zury Ríos and Edmond Mulet.