GUATEMALA CITY –– Comedian-turned-politician Jimmy Morales is poised to become Guatemala’s next president, according to preliminary election returns.
Morales, 46, won more than 69 per cent of votes with results from more than 93 per cent of polling stations counted, election officials said. Former first lady Sandra Torres, 59, who was trailing with nearly 31 per cent of votes, conceded late Sunday night.
“Guatemala has serious problems. But the people made their choice. We respect it, and we wish great success for Mr Morales,” she said.
The National Convergence Front’s Morales jumped into the political scene in 2011 with a failed run for mayor of Mixco, a Guatemala City suburb.
“We have a great responsibility . . . . This mandate that we are receiving is to fight against corruption,” Morales said as results came in Sunday night.
For naysayers who are sceptical of his ability to lead the country, he had a clear answer.
“I have been asked if we have the capacity to govern, and we have been emphatic in saying that alone –– no –– but with the blessing of God, and the support of the people, we are sure that yes, we can. Because Guatemala has made a choice that it wants a change,” he said.
Torres, former first lady from 2008 to 2011, is with the National Unity of Hope party. She is divorced from former president Álvaro Colom.
Both candidates ran on the promise of cleaning up the country.
Guatemala, a country of 15 million, is reeling from a corruption scandal that has prompted the resignation of its president, vice president and more than a dozen Cabinet members, ministers and government officials.
Otto Pérez Molina submitted his resignation as president in September, two days after the Guatemalan Congress voted in favour of stripping the former military commander of his prosecutorial immunity as head of state. Pérez Molina, who was arrested shortly afterward, has maintained his innocence and said the accusations against him were politically motivated.
Yesterday’s election was Guatemala’s ninth since the Central American country returned to democracy after a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.