The Constitutional Court of Guatemala yesterday rejected an appeal by the poll favorite ahead of the presidential elections, Carlos Pineda, against the “suspension” of his candidacy by the judiciary, with less than a month remaining until the first round.

The 51-year-old businessman’s appeal was deemed “without purpose” by the Constitutional Court. The decision is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

The judiciary and the electoral court (Tribunal Supremo Electoral, or TSE, the highest electoral authority) decided to “suspend” the candidacy at the request of a rival party, of which Mr. Pineda had been a member, citing procedural irregularities.

“Corruption won, Guatemala lost,” Mr. Pineda tweeted, referring to the decision. The disqualified candidate then joined dozens of his supporters who demonstrated in front of the seat of the Constitutional Court.

The businessman ranked first in the most recent poll published by the newspaper Prensa Libre, garnering 23.1% of voting intentions.

A total of 22 candidates remain in the presidential election. This number, common in Guatemala, almost rules out any chance of victory in the first round on June 25: it requires someone to secure more than half the votes. The second round is scheduled to take place on August 20.

The 9.3 million Guatemalan voters will be called upon to elect, for a single four-year term, the successor to Alejandro Yamate, 67.

In the Prensa Libre poll, after Mr Pineda the candidate with the highest percentage of voting intentions was social democrat and former first lady Sandra Torres, 67 (19.5%), followed by centrist former UN official Edmond Moulet , 72 years old (10.1%) and the right-wing Suri Rios, the daughter of the country’s former dictator, 55 years old (9.2%).

Before Mr. Pineda, two candidates who had serious chances had already been ruled out: Thelma Cabrera, 52, an indigenous Maya (at least 40% of the population), who belongs to the left; and Roberto Arsu, 53, who belongs on the right, son of former president Alvaros Arsou (1996-2000).

When it was decided by the judiciary to “suspend” his candidacy, Mr. Pineda spoke of the action of “dark forces around the government”.

For many observers, it is clear that the elections in Guatemala are “rigged”: by this they do not mean that there will be fraud, but that candidates ready to cooperate with the ruling elites will be imposed. Juan Papier, executive of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), agrees: the disqualifications, he said, are “clear manipulation by the judiciary” to ensure a preferred election result.

The exclusions of candidates from the judiciary put “at risk (…) the rule of law, democracy, guarantees and freedoms of the entire population”, Eddy Cooks, the director of Citizen Action (Acción Ciudana), as the branch of the NGO Transparency International in the Central American country is called.