WORLDPOST
09/09/2011 06:15 pm ET | Updated Nov 09, 2011

Guatemala Election 2011: Otto Pérez Molina Takes The Lead (PHOTOS)

In Guatemala's fourth round of presidential elections since the country's 35-year civil war ended in 1996, retired army general Otto Pérez Molina is poised to come out on top. According to the latest poll by Siglo 21, Pérez has maintained his lead with nearly 45 percent of the vote, despite losing over 8 points since a survey in July. Pérez is running against Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, Eduardo Suger, and Manuel Baldizón. He needs 50 percent plus one vote to win the election; otherwise, a second round will be scheduled for November 6.

However, the impoverished country's road to election day has not been without its bumps. At least 35 people have been killed in campaign-related violence, and fear of political violence leading up to election day remains a major concern. The Los Angeles Times quotes Karen Fisher, a former anti-corruption prosecutor in Guatemala:

"People are now more afraid that a sicario [hitman] on a motorcycle can shoot you for no reason, but they're also more afraid of the increasing political insecurity."

Moreover, campaign funding scandals also have come to light. Two leading parties reportedly have grossly exceeded the maximum campaign spending limit. A lack of transparency in campaign funding has caused concern among some NGOs that the money is coming from illegal groups infiltrating Guatemalan politics. The Economist writes:

"Legitimate Guatemalan businesses are unlikely to have donated such sums, reinforcing suspicions about drug money in politics. Guatemalans can only guess who has paid for the election posters lining their streets."

Former First Lady Sandra Torres has been shut out of the race at last, as Guatemala's Constitutional Court ruled that she is ineligible to run as a candidate. Torres drew criticism for her decision to divorce her husband, current President Alvaro Colom, in an effort to skirt constitutional rules prohibiting close relatives of the president from running. Without Ms. Torres in the race, Pérez is strongly favored as the likely winner.

See photos of three Guatemalan candidates for president below.

Guatemala Elections

Correction: A previously published version of this article misspelled Rigoberta Menchu's name.