Comedian Takes Out First Round of Guatemalan Presidential Elections

Candidate Jimmy Morales congratulates Guatemala for their civility during the elections. (PanAm Post)
Candidate Jimmy Morales congratulates Guatemalans on their civility during election day. (PanAm Post)

EspañolIn the wake of President Otto Pérez Molina‘s resignation over a corruption scandal, Guatemalans took to the polls to punish status-quo politics on Sunday, September 6.

Jimmy Morales, a 46-year-old former comedian turned politician, leads the presidential race with 24 percent of the votes and will face former first lady Sandra Torres of the National Unity of Hope Party in the October 25 runoff.

The National Convergence Front Party candidate ran a low-profile, anti-corruption campaign and managed a late turnaround in the polls. A businessman who studied theology, Morales successfully latched onto the popular outrage directed at the political class, after allegations emerged that President Pérez Molina and his Vice President Roxana Baldetti were involved in a tax-fraud scheme. Both have had to step down.

In conversations with the PanAm Post, voters in Guatemala City shared that rather than an endorsement of Morales’s platform, they had cast their ballots “against [Manuel] Baldizón,” the LIDER party candidate feared by independents for his populist platform.

The leading presidential candidate arrived at the National Information Centre on Sunday to celebrate the results. Morales said that his four-percentage-point lead over the other major parties proved there was no need to spend millions or appeal to populism. He took the opportunity to congratulate Guatemalans for their exemplary “protest at the polls.”

At first, preliminary results placed Morales in the lead, followed by Sandra Torres and Manuel Baldizón tied in second place. On Monday afternoon, however, the electoral authority announced in a press conference that the latter was out of the race.

Guatemala Triumphed over Absenteeism

While the metropolitan area of Guatemala city remained calm throughout the day, there were complaints elsewhere. These included accusations of multiple voting by the same individuals and other violations of electoral law from party activists, such as fraudulent registrations.

In a press conference, Chief Justice Rudy Marlon Pineda said that citizens had gathered at the polls like never before. The electoral body estimates that the participation stood at 79 percent.

Complaints from Citizens

Attorney Aldana was emphatic that he would proceed with the investigation of the electoral roll. (PanAm Post)
Guatemala’s attorney general assured that she would thoroughly investigate the complaints of electoral fraud. (PanAm Post)

According to Attorney General Thelma Aldana, the Public Ministry received 235 complaints and 1,200 calls, while the Office of Electoral Crime received 1,300 calls and 137 complaints. The most frequent accusations were fake documents, the buying of votes, and rounding up of people to take them to vote.

The mobile application Visible Elections (Elecciones Visibles) received 1,225 complaints from voters.

Representatives of the LIDER party top the list with 58 percent of the accusations, while the Patriotic Party accounted for 23 percent of complaints, and the National Unity of Hope Party 3 percent.

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The PanAm Post also learned of several complaints firsthand, many of them directed against the LIDER Party. In the department of Escuintla, party leaders reportedly force people to go vote.

In Escuintla’s polling station 28, many people were not allowed to vote because it appeared that they had already cast their ballots. But they protested that the stations had just opened.

A Chance for Solidarity

As soon as Guatemalans found out that the National Civil Police did not get an allowance for food on election day, they spontaneously organized on social media.

With the hashtag #ComidaParaelPoli (Food for the Cop), citizens handed out snacks and beverages to officers they found on the streets.
“Thanks to solidarity toward the police, the people achieved what the Ministry of Interior cannot do.”

Translated by Rachel Rodriguez.

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