Opinion polls suggest that even if Ms Torres manages to make it onto the ballot, she faces stiff competition from Otto Pérez Molina, a former general who now leads the right-wing Patriot Party. He promises a crackdown on the organised crime and corruption that has come to stalk Guatemala, where the murder rate has doubled since 2000. Althouhg Mr Pérez lost the 2007 election to Mr Colom, he is currently polling 43%, against Ms Torres’s 11%.
However, such findings probably underestimate Ms Torres’s chances. First, she had not publicly declared her candidacy until last week. Moreover, Guatemala has a particularly crowded field of candidates—the most recent presidential election attracted 14 hopefuls. The result of a run-off, which takes place if no one wins an outright majority, is extremely difficult to predict.
Finally, Guatemala is one of Latin America’s most rural societies, which makes it a nightmare for pollsters. Ms Torres is unpopular in the capital, the country’s only major city, but does better in the impoverished countryside, where her social programmes, such as Mi Familia Progresa (My Family Progresses), aYes, the results of a runoff are hard to predict. But even with 14 candidates in 2007, there were only three (UNE, PP, and GANA or maybe four (FRG?) parties that had any reasonable chance of advancing to a second round. , have had the most impact. Pollsters rarely venture out to such areas. Ms Torres’s candidacy faces an uphill battle, in terms of both legality and popularity, but it’s still too soon to write her off.
Colom (28%) and Perez Molina (23%) finished one-two in 2007 and then Colom won 53%-47% in the runoff. Heading into this year's election, it would be a shock to see anyone outside of Colom, Perez Molina, Suger, or Caballeros advance to a second round - and this year we are likely to have even more candidates. And even the last two are real dark horses.
And it is important to remember that polls that rely primarily on urban respondents (Borge y Asociados) probably under report Torres' support. The poll that apparently does a better job with rural voters' intentions is the CID-Gallup poll. Last November it had Perez Molina at 29% and Torres at 25%.
I'd say that the three most likely scenarios heading into September's elections are (1) Perez Molina / Torres runoff, (2) Perez Molina victory in the first round, and then (3) Torres / Perez Molina runoff. A lot can happen in a few months, but there's nothing standing in the way of one of these three outcomes (other than the Constitutional Court).
However, the CC can't rule on the legality of Torres' candidacy just yet because, officially, there are no candidates for the presidency until the TSE says campaigning can begin..