A former television comic is heading for a runoff with either a wealthy businessman or a former first lady in voting for Guatemala’s next president, days after the Central American country’s leader resigned over a corruption scandal. With more than 96% of polling stations reporting, comedian Jimmy Morales, who has never held elective office, was leading with 24% of the vote. Businessman and longtime politician Manuel Baldizón and former first lady Sandra Torres were in a tie, each with about 19.4%. Baldizón led Torres by less than 800 votes among nearly five million votes cast. The top two finishers in the field of 14 will advance to a runoff to be held on 25 October. Analyst Christians Castillo said Morales’s surprising performance was a sign of voter discontent, “a vote of punishment” against more traditional candidates. Electoral officials estimated a nearly 80% turnout.
The candidates in Sunday’s election faced an uncomfortable challenge: trying to win votes in a nation where the former president Otto Pérez Molina remains in court custody awaiting a decision on whether he will be tried on graft charges.
Most of the candidates were old-guard figures picked to run before energised prosecutors backed by a mass anti-corruption movement toppled Pérez Molina’s administration. Many voters were so sceptical that they campaigned for the election itself to be postponed to give them a new crop of choices.
Morales boasted of his outsider status and said he is part of the uprising against corruption. He has promised greater transparency, including media review of government contracts.