Bernardo Arévalo, center, after voting in the runoff in Guatemala City. (AP)

Bernardo Arévalo, center, waves after voting in the run-off presidential election in Guatemala City. (AP)

Fast Facts about Bernardo Arévalo's Presidential Win in Guatemala

By Carin Zissis

Campaigning on an anti-graft platform, Arévalo won the country’s August 20 runoff by a landslide. We share facts about his victory.

Few saw it coming. Before Guatemala held its June 25 general elections, Bernardo Arévalo was one of the country’s candidates who polled below 3 percent and his name was not included among the frontrunners. But, as if out of nowhere, he captured more than 11 percent of the vote in the first round and snagged a place in the runoff.

Then, on August 20, 64-year-old Arévalo, a former diplomat and legislator, won the presidency, capturing 58 percent of the votes compared with 37 percent for Sandra Torres, 67, of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE). Arévalo’s youth-backed Movimiento Semilla (or Seed Movement) tapped into voter discontent—in April, 83 percent of Guatemalans said the general situation of the country had deteriorated over the past three years.

But if Arévalo’s anti-corruption message struck a chord that propelled the center-left candidate to victory, he could face a tough road ahead. Some candidates seen as challenging the status quo were eliminated from competing in the first round, and Arévalo himself faced attempts to block his and his party’s eligibility.

It’s expected that some of the same powerful political forces that sought to set up obstacles to his candidacy could seek to impede his government.  

For now, AS/COA Online shares numbers and facts about the electoral outcome.   

“This victory is the people’s and together we will fight against corruption.”

Arévalo in his victory speech on the night of August 20. His party, Semilla, has made transparency one of its core issues. The party was established in 2017 in the wake of an anti-graft movement that culminated in the resignation and arrest of President Otto Pérez Molina (2012–2015) for his ties to a bribery ring.  


Local time on August 20 when current President Alejandro Giammattei shared on social media that he had spoken with Arévalo to congratulate him for his win and invite him to the presidential palace the following day to set the transition plan in motion.  

Meanwhile, Torres’ UNE released a statement saying it would define its position on the electoral results “once the results are clarified with total transparency.”

For its part, two days before the election, the U.S. State Department encouraged a peaceful process, with Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary Brian Nichols stating: “The real power of democracy comes from respecting the will of the people.” In the weeks leading up to the runoff, the State Department criticized moves to impede Arévalo’s candidacy.

45 percent

Turnout in this electoral round, which, while low, is higher than the 42 percent registered in the 2019 runoff. Guatemala has 9.4 million registered voters.


The number of times Torres has made it to a presidential runoff. She lost in all three rounds, which took place in 2015, 2019, and 2023. In the last two elections, she was the candidate who earned the largest portion of votes in the first round only to lose in the second one.  

During her presidential bids, polls regularly indicated Torres was among the best-known contenders, but she also tended to come up as the candidate with the higher unfavorable percentage. She was the first lady during the term of moderate leftist Álvaro Colom (2008–2012), whom she divorced in 2011. She was known for her role in building social programs during his presidency, which helped her draw support in rural areas. While she and her party were in the past perceived as leftist, Torres solidified a rightward shift in this election in a bid to win over conservative voters in the face of Semilla’s progressive movement, recruiting an evangelical pastor to be her vice-presidential candidate.

23 seats

Number of spots Arévalo’s Semilla party will hold in Guatemala’s unicameral congress. That makes Semilla the party holding the third-largest number of seats in the 160-person legislature, and it is likely to have a tough time ushering through its legislative plan. Building coalitions will be difficult as Semilla faces two larger and opposing forces: Giammattei’s conservative Vamos party will have 39 seats, while Torres’ UNE party will hold 28.

79 years

Time period since Arévalo’s father won the 1944 election to become Guatemala’s first democratically elected president. Juan José Arévalo (1945–51) was a socially progressive leader whose government implemented reforms that established social security and focused on, among other things, indigenous and worker rights. His presidency initiated a period of democracy cut short by a 1954 coup. 

Israel, the Netherlands

The countries where Arévalo attained his bachelor’s degree and doctorate, respectively. Arévalo, who was born in Uruguay, has spent much of his life based in other countries, given that his family spent periods of time living in exile. As a former diplomat, he also served as the Guatemalan ambassador to Spain.  

January 14, 2024

Date of Guatemala’s presidential inauguration, when Arévalo and his Vice President Karin Herrera are slated to be sworn in.