On September 11, 2011 general elections were held in Guatemala and the mostly indigenous town of Nebaj elected the official winner of its mayoral election to be Pedro Raymundo Cobo from the Political Party UNE-GANA. Cobo won with 12,202 votes against the competing Patriot Party, currently in power with Virgilio Geronimo Bernal as mayor. Bernal would have been the main candidate for the Patriot Party, but his name did not even appear on the ballot  – where his name should have been printed was the word “vacant”.

This did not surprise many voters because Virgilio Bernal has criminal charges pending against him and Guatemalan law stipulates that a public official cannot have pending criminal charges in order to run for public office.

Regardless, the elections proceeded as normal and the results of these elections were recognized by the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) and the local authorities elected were recognized and accredited on October 17, 2011. This meant new officials could take their seats on January 15.

Meanwhile, Bernal was filing legal complaints against what hindered the inclusion of his name on the ballot. He requested an annulment of the mayoral elections held on 2011 in Nebaj, arguing that he lost the election because his name did not appear on the ballot. He took his request to the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice alleging violations to his civil and political rights by the TSE because he was denied to run for office. After a long legal battle, the Constitutional Court stepped in and TSE was ordered to repeat the elections in Nebaj and to include Bernal’s name and photo on the ballots.

Nebaj’s re-election has now been moved to January 12, 2014, after a final decision from the Supreme Electoral Court. The elections planned for December 15 were initially postponed to January 26 because one of the candidates, Pedro Raymundo Cobo, who won the election in 2011 changed his political party and asked the Supreme Court to postpone the elections a month. He asked for this postponement so that he could promote his new political party logo and position. The Supreme Court approved the request and postponed the election for January 26 in the new year. As a reminder to readers: while opposing candidate from the Patriota Party, Virgilio Bernal, requested the repetition of the election itself, the deferment of the election is now due to a request from Cobo who was the original winner of the first election held on September 11, 2011 during Guatemala’s general elections.

This decision to postpone the election concerned several candidates running for the mayorship of Nebaj. The candidates requested this postponement be cancelled before Guatemala’s Supreme Court. The Court agreed? These legal procedures have confused residents of Nebaj because the decision to cancel the postponement was issued on the afternoon of December 14th, one day before the re-election was initially scheduled. There was little to no information provided regarding the postponement. Residents travelled to Guatemala City to demand that the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), the entity in charge of elections, to issue an earlier election date to the one originally planned. So now the election will be held on Sunday, January 12, 2014.

Residents of the municipality report that the tension between supporters of the political parties is increasing and there have been cases of reported violence. Two people were physically hurt while trying to report illegal acts take by some political parties in order to buy votes.

The Supreme Electoral Court issued a statement on December 20, 2013 calling for the town of Nebaj to remain calm in order to carry out a peaceful electoral process.

TSE set the date for a re-election for January 12, 2014 to elect the Mayor of Nebaj.

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