Voters also choose a vice president and 160 representatives to the Guatemalan Congress.
Many Guatemalans have expressed disappointment with their presidential choices after authorities ruled out three opposition candidates. A large number of spoiled ballots were expected and experts said this could lower turnout.
Former First Lady Sandra Torres of the National Unity of Hope (UNE) party is expected to win the first round but is expected to miss the 50% plus one vote needed for an outright victory in the contest, whose fairness has made the subject to international scrutiny.
The 67-year-old businesswoman unsuccessfully sought the presidency twice before. It is allied with the Vamos (Let’s go) party of the current legislature.
Torres has finished second in the two previous presidential elections, but she and her party faces charges corruption and illegal campaign financing. She denied the charges and campaigned on a promise to strengthen social programs to fight poverty across the country.
She faces more than 20 other candidates, including Edmond Mulet, a career diplomat, and Zury Rios, daughter of the late dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
Mulet, 72, with the centrist Cabal (Spot On) party, is campaigning on promises to support the economy and invest in health care, education and security.
His campaign has been beset by accusations that he was involved in an illegal child adoption operation in the 1980s, when thousands of infants and children were taken from their families and put up for adoption. ‘foreign. Mulet categorically denied participating in the scheme.
Rios, 55, whose Valor (Valor) party was also part of the previous ruling legislative coalition, was allowed to contest the elections after the Constitutional Court ruled in May that a rule preventing family members of those who seized power in a coup from running for office should not apply to her. She campaigned on an anti-crime agenda.
The race to succeed conservative President Alejandro Giammattei, who is limited by law to one term, has been overshadowed by a court ruling to block four candidates from the ballot box, including early front-runner businessman Carlos Pineda.
Both the United States and the European Union criticized Pineda’s exclusion, which called the decision “election fraud”.
About 9.2 million Guatemalans are eligible to vote to elect the country’s next president and vice president, as well as 160 congressional representatives.
Hundreds of local positions are also up for grabs, as well as 20 seats in the Central American Parliament.
Voting centers, which opened at 7:00 a.m. (1:00 p.m. GMT), are scheduled to close at 6:00 p.m. (00:00 GMT on Monday).