- Title: GUATEMALA: Guatemalan presidential election campaigns close
- Date: 3rd September 2007
- Summary: GIAMMATTEI WAVING TO SUPPORTERS
- Embargoed: 18th September 2007 13:00
- Location: Guatemala
- Country: Guatemala
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9U7QEDIXGVVUTH9LH3MICXSMB
- Story Text: Guatemalan presidential candidates closed their election campaigns on Sunday (September 2) ahead of the poll on September 9.
Otto Perez Molina, a right-wing former general has narrowed the gap with centre-left front-runner Alvaro Colom in Guatemala's presidential election, according to a poll published on Friday (August 31).
Perez Molina, an ex-head of military intelligence during the country's 1960-1996 civil war, was in second place with almost 28 percent support in the daily El Periodico's latest poll, up 4 percentage points from a July survey.
Perez Molina has spent heavily on a campaign to sell his promises of a crackdown on violence and corruption.
He backs using the army to fight crime by selectively declaring states of emergency and suspending constitutional rights in areas overrun by crime.
Guatemala has one of highest murder rates in the world.
At his closing campaign rally Molina promised his supporters "a hard hand in change, a hard hand in security, in the peace of Guatemalans, a hard hand in taking Guatemala out of the hate, the violence, and the insecurity that we are living in today," if voted into office.
Colom has consistently led in the polls but his score slipped to almost 31 percent from nearly 33 percent in July.
Colom's Nation Unity for Hope party or UNE, has been hardest hit by pre-election violence. Eighteen of its candidates and party activists have been murdered in the campaign. The dead include one congressman shot in front of party headquarters in April.
Rival candidates say Colom, running for president for the third time, let criminals infiltrate the party as he struggled for funds in the last election campaign in 2003.
At his closing campaign rally on Sunday, Colom said he hoped to change the face of politics in Guatemala.
He told supporters he would "leave the country organised and disciplined, leave the country set for the long run so that when many of you are participating in politics, it will be a stage totally without dirty campaigns."
Colom and Perez Molina are likely headed for a run-off vote in November where the survey predicted a close race.
The candidate of President Oscar Berger's GANA coalition, Alejandro Giammattei, an ex-head of the country's crumbling prison system, was ranked third in Friday's poll with 10.5 percent.
Central America's most populous nation, Guatemala is still suffering the after-effects of the 1960-1996 civil war, which left nearly a quarter of a million people dead or missing.
Guatemala is one of the most violent countries in the Americas. Almost 6,000 people were murdered last year mostly due to common crime and gang feuds.
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