Early votes counts indicate runoff in Guatemala presidential election

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With around 51 percent of the votes counted, Guatemala’s presidential election looks set to go to a runoff. Television comedian Jimmy Morales appeared to be leading with 26.5 percent of the vote.

Morales, who has never held elective office, holds moderate right-wing views and stands on an anti-corruption ticket: “not corrupt, not a thief.”

“Guatemala wants change and to not be governed by people with dark pasts,” Morales said on Sunday after voting near Guatemala City.

According to early vote counts, the former TV personality was followed shortly behind by business and longtime politician Manuel Baldizon with 18 percent and former first lady Sandra Torres at around 17 percent.

If none of the 14 candidates wins a simple majority, the top two finishers would go head to head in a runoff scheduled on October 25.

Corruption scandal

Despite fears of a mass abstention from voting, electoral officials said early signs indicated a high turnout of around 80 percent of Guatemala’s 7.5 million registered voters.

The election on Sunday followed weeks of protests against corruption within Guatemala’s political system. According to the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies (ICEFI), 50 percent of party financing comes from illegal sources.

The corruption within Guatemala’s government was revealed by a joint investigation by the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), and the Guatemalan Public Ministry.

The inquiry said they found massive evidence that former President Otto Perez Molina and his deputy Roxana Baldetti orchestrated a scheme – dubbed “La Linea” (The Line) – which importers allegedly called to access a network of corrupt officials.

Prosecutors claim that $3.8 million (3.4 million euros) in bribes were collected as part of the scandal between May 2014 and April 2015 – including $800,000 each to Perez Molina and Baldetti.

The ex-vice president was jailed, while Molina remains in court custody awaiting a decision on whether he will be tried on graft charges.

Along with a new president, 338 mayors and 158 congressional deputies are to be elected.

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