Conservative businessman Carlos Pineda lost his final appeal to continue the campaign a month before the polls began.
The Constitutional Court of Guatemala has ruled to end the presidential campaign of dark-horse candidate Carlos Pineda with just one month left before voting begins.
Pineda, a conservative businessman with a strong social media following, had appealed to the country’s Supreme Court a week ago after a judge barred him from running for violations of the country’s election laws. .
But the Constitutional Court on Friday upheld a lower court’s ruling that Pineda failed to gather signatures from party delegates and submit the required financial report required in the nomination process.
The decision provoked a fierce reaction from Pineda, who had emerged as the front-runner in a recent election poll.
“Corruption won, Guatemala lost,” Pineda wrote in a social media post.
Another article said the Constitutional Court upheld “electoral fraud” in its ruling “We have no more democracy!!”
Pineda is the third candidate ever to be disqualified from the presidential race, with the first round of voting scheduled for June 25.
His disqualification follows Thursday’s fellow conservative Roberto Alsou.
Earlier this year, left-wing indigenous candidate Thelma Cabrera was similarly barred from the race after her vice-presidential candidate, former human rights official Jordan Rodas, was deemed ineligible.
Rodas allegedly failed to file a letter confirming that there were no pending legal proceedings, and the court ruled that Rodas’ entire ticket, including Cabrera, could not be registered for the election.
Critics have accused the disqualification of being politically motivated and intended to weed out candidates deemed unfavorable to the regime.
Juan Papier, acting deputy Americas director at Human Rights Watch, tweeted that Friday’s ruling was a “clear instrumentation of the judiciary to ensure the outcome of the ‘election’.”
The government of outgoing President Alejandro Giammatti has already been accused of suppressing opposition in Guatemala.
Earlier this month, the 27-year-old investigative news agency El Pilliodico said it had been “forced to cease” its daily publication after the “persecution” of its staff had “increased.” Founder Jose Rubén Zamora was previously arrested on money laundering and extortion charges.
And under Giammattei’s government, an estimated 30 legal experts and anti-corruption officials, including judges and lawyers, have fled the country following investigations by the government.
Many of these individuals are associated with the now-closed Guatemalan International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG). CICIG is an independent organization supported by the United Nations to combat corruption in the country.
Giammattei is ineligible for re-election in June, but Manuel Conde is running for his Conservative party Vamos. However, no political party in Guatemala has succeeded in winning consecutive presidential elections.
On Wednesday, days before his disqualification, Pineda was leading the polls for presidential candidates. He topped the list with 22% support among voters. This was followed by former First Lady Sandra Torres at 20%, followed by Zuri Rios, daughter of former President Efrain Rios Montt, who is accused of genocide, and diplomat Edmond Muret.
About 30 political parties are expected to participate. Pineda was president of the Prosperidad Ciudadana (“Citizens’ Prosperity”) party.