Record number of voters ready for Guatemala’s election

09 Sep 2011

imageRegistration campaign mounted by Guatemala's Supreme Electoral Tribunal and carried out with support from UNDP.

Guatemala City – A record number of more than 7.3 million Guatemalans have registered to vote ahead of this weekend’s presidential elections following joint efforts by national authorities and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Representing an increase of more than 20 percent in the size of the 2007 electorate, some 840 thousand citizens were added to the 2011 electoral register in the Central American country of 13.8 million people.

The registration campaign mounted by Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal and carried out with support from UNDP, not only empowered citizens for involvement in general elections but also strengthened the organizational and operational structure of the Tribunal, the country’s highest electoral body.

"A part of this campaign involves providing reasons why all citizens should turn out and vote, reasons that appeal to their love for our country and reasons that call on their rights and duties as citizens," said María Eugenia Villagrán, president and magistrate at the Tribunal.

The campaign's objective was to raise awareness about the importance and processes of voting, particularly among young people, indigenous populations and women who, for the first time in the country’s history, outnumbered men on the voter roll, 50 percent compared to 47 percent.

In order to reach all corners of the country, the campaign was devised in Spanish and Guatemala’s main indigenous languages, mam, quekchí, quiché and cakchiquel, and circulated using various communication channels, including traditional and new media.

The campaign enlisted well-known women and men in the worlds of sport, music, television and academia, and asked citizens to wear T-shirts encouraging others to get involved in the general

"Politics is an opportunity to spawn fairer conditions and give people more choices,” said Xavier Michon UNDP Country Director. “This is the true significance of general elections - they represent an opportunity for the country as a whole."

Fifty-two volunteers coordinated by the Tribunal and a team from the European Union took the campaign to 5,000 university students, offering workshops and distributing material on the electoral process. They are also forming teams to watch conduct at polling stations this weekend.

Support for the Tribunal and the campaign includes funding of US$4 million from the United States Agency for International Development and US$ 4 million from the Embassies of Sweden and the Netherlands in Guatemala.