Jimmy Morales, a political neophyte and former TV comedian, swept into office as Guatemala’s new president Sunday when more than two-thirds of voters backed him in a second round of polling in presidential elections. Fed up with a political system infected with corruption, nepotism and criminal impunity, the voters chose a political rookie over contender Sandra Torres, a former first lady widely perceived to be part of the old power establishment. Torres conceded defeat Sunday evening, saying: “The people have made their choice, and we respect it. We are going to offer constructive support that will benefit the country.” Morales claimed victory after receiving just under 2.7 million votes — a 68.7% percent share of ballots cast — compared with 1.2 million cast for Torres, preliminary results from Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal showed.
In a brief video message distributed after Morales claimed victory, Guatemala’s new president-elect said: “With this vote I received a mandate, and the mandate from the people of Guatemala is to fight against the corruption that has consumed us.”
Morales’ victory came as no surprise after polls showed him with a massive lead as voting commenced this weekend. But his huge win over Torres may be as much a reflection of the country’s political turmoil as an endorsement of his qualifications or merit.
“People aren’t voting for the candidate they really want, but rather to reject the other options,” said Pedro Trujillo, director of the political science department at Francisco Marquis University in Guatemala City.