Sunday, October 25th, 2015 BMG: Guatemalans began casting ballots in a presidential run-off today Sunday, choosing between a comedian with no political experience and a former first lady, amid the fallout of a massive corruption scandal.
Jimmy Morales, a comic actor famous for playing a country bumpkin who nearly becomes president, headed into the vote with a huge lead — 68 percent to 32 percent for former first lady Sandra Torres, according to the final opinion poll.
Voter surveys show Morales is set to easily win Sunday’s run-off vote against the former first lady, who also vows to tackle corruption but is seen by many voters as part of the old political order.
His surge has capped a tumultuous campaign rocked by president Otto Pérez Molina’s resignation and arrest on corruption charges on September 3rd, three days before the first round of voting.
An estimated 7.5 million people are eligible to vote in the second round. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m., with first results expected about three hours later.
Pérez Molina, who is in jail awaiting trial, is accused of masterminding a corrupt network of politicians and customs officials that allowed businesses to pay bribes to get illegal discounts on import duties.
Prosecutors and United Nations investigators say the network collected $3.8 million in bribes between May 2014 and April 2015 — including $800,000 each to Pérez Molina and jailed ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti.
On September 6th, general elections were held in Guatemala to elect a president, a vice president, and 15 congress deputies, 20 deputies to the Central America Parliament and mayors and councils for all 338 municipalities that would sit and govern the country for the next 4 years.
The “La Linea corruption case” involving high-ranking officials of the outgoing administration, including President Molina and Vice President Baldetti, was made public by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.
Baldetti resigned in May and was arrested on fraud charges in August. More than a dozen ministers and deputy ministers as well as a number of government officials had to resign too. Less than a week before the election, President Pérez was also stripped of his immunity, resigned and was arrested.
Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre acts as head of state until a new president is sworn into office. The scandal has diminished many Guatemalans trust in the political elite even further.
With participants of mass protests against corruption demanded a postponement of the election due to the crisis and claims of irregularities today a run-off is currently taking place to elect a new president.
Nominees are: Jimmy Morales representing the FCN party and Sandra Torres representing the UNE party.
We will keep monitoring the process of the elections today and will bring an update on the results as they are made known.
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