It is a breakthrough. All indications are that on Jan. 14, an elected president will succeed an elected president for the first time in Guatemala's history. That is more important than the not-very-inspiring choice that will be put to voters in a run-off on Jan. 6 of the 12-way first round election for president held on Sunday.
The top two are Jorge Carpio Nicolle, a newspaper publisher who has been campaigning nonstop since he came in second in the 1985 election, and Jorge Serrano Elias, an economist who served a dictator. Each won about one-quarter of the vote. Both count as conservative. Mr. Serrano is also, notably, an evangelical Protestant in a country where most people are at least nominally Catholic.
The outgoing president, Vinicio Cerezo, was ineligible to succeed himself. This saved him the embarrassment of getting tossed out by the voters. After a strong start, his government was seen as corrupt and weak. The candidate of his Christian Democratic Party came in fourth.