GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – With barely a month to go until Guatemalan voters went to the polls to elect a new president, a judge on Friday suspended the candidacy of frontrunner Carlos Pineda, in a ruling quickly denounced as undemocratic by the outsider businessman .
Pineda vowed to appeal the ruling to the country’s constitutional court, the highest judicial authority in Central America’s most populous country, but only a week before the official ballots are to be printed.
“We are in a dictatorship,” Pineda thundered in a video posted on his Twitter account.
He accused the court of removing him from the ballot because he refused to be an “ally of corruption.”
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The shock tribunal ruling, described as temporary, follows several suspensions of other candidates, as critics allege outgoing conservative President Alejandro Giammattei and his allies seek to impose their own preferences in the race.
The court ruled that Pineda, 50, a candidate for the conservative Prosperidad Ciudadana (PC) party, could not participate in the elections due to failure to comply with the rules governing the nomination process, such as the failure to collect signatures from party delegates. and file a required financial report.
In a recent poll, Pineda led all candidates with 23% support, emerging as the favorite to replace Giammattei. Critics accuse Giammattei of an unprecedented crackdown on judges, prosecutors, journalists and activists, many of whom have fled the country.
The court’s decision to remove the leading candidate from the upcoming race followed a request from legislative candidate Jorge Baldizón, a representative of the CAMBIO party, who accused Pineda of not complying with nomination rules.
Pineda had been a Cambio party presidential candidate before switching to PC earlier this year due to clashes with the Baldizón family.
Other presidential hopefuls, leftist Thelma Cabrera and conservative Roberto Arzu, were previously thrown out of the race. Both argued that ending their candidacies constituted a violation of fundamental democratic rights.
(Reporting by Sofia Mench; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Jacqueline Wong)
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