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The candidates vying to be Guatemala's next president

08 september 2015, 14:38
0

Guatemala's tumultuous presidential election is headed for a run-off on October 25 that will pit the surprise frontrunner, a comedian, against either a former first lady or a millionaire businessman, currently neck-and-neck, AFP reports.

  The comedian-turned-frontrunner 

Jimmy Morales, a 46-year-old comedian and actor, rose to fame playing the role of a simpleton cowboy who almost ends up becoming president. 

In what some have called a case of life imitating art, the political outsider won Sunday's first-round vote with 23.95 percent, with 97.7 percent of the ballots counted.

He rode a wave of disgust among ordinary Guatemalans, who deserted the traditional political elite in outrage over a corruption scandal that ended in the resignation and jailing of president Otto Perez just days before the vote.

Running for conservative party FCN-Nacion, Morales led a light-hearted campaign, cracking jokes at rallies but giving few concrete details on his policy plans.

"For 20 years I've made you laugh. I promise that if I become president I won't make you cry," he reassured voters.

In his 2007 film "A President in a Sombrero," Morales played a hayseed named Neto who nearly gets elected president by making a string of empty promises, but ends up dropping out of the race and returning to his hometown.

In one of the film's best-known scenes, Neto promises to build a bridge for residents of one downtrodden district. When informed there is no river there, he announces, "Then we will build them the rivers they need!"

In real life, the current race is his first foray into national politics, though he once ran unsuccessfully for mayor of his hometown.

Morales, who hosts a comedy show on TV and also produces movies, is married with four children.

  The former first lady 

Sandra Torres, the 59-year-old ex-wife of former president Alvaro Colom (2008-2011), divorced her husband to be eligible for the 2011 election, only to have her candidacy rejected by the Electoral Tribunal on grounds that she was still a close relation of the incumbent.

Her hopes are now pinned on the October 25 runoff.

She currently has 19.62 percent in Sunday's vote, but the still-incomplete count will go down to the wire.

Torres is running for the social democratic party, UNE.

Her critics accuse her of taking part in the guerrilla army that fought the Guatemalan government from 1960 to 1996, a civil war that killed some 200,000 people -- a claim she has always denied.

As head of the government's social programs during her husband's administration, she was considered a powerful and uncompromising figure but sought to present a softer side on the campaign trail.

An outspoken activist for women's and children's rights, she has no children of her own.

  The nervous lawyer 

Manuel Baldizon, a 45-year-old businessman and lawyer, was the man who was going to be Guatemala's next president for much of the campaign.

After finishing as the runner-up to Perez in 2011, the right-wing Democratic Liberty party candidate led in the polls for this year's race until Morales overtook him in the final days.

He took 19.57 percent in the first round vote -- so close to Torres that a recount could be demanded.

Baldizon sports bookish rectangular glasses and a squeaky-clean look, but his campaign was tainted by the corruption scandals shaking Guatemalan politics.

His running mate, Edgar Barquin, has been caught up in a money laundering scandal, and six lawmakers from his party have also been implicated in graft cases.

Baldizon has a dynamic political style but appeared nervous near the end of the campaign.

He avoided the media, said he feared for his life and sometimes addressed rallies wearing a bullet-proof vest.

His speeches are generally heavy on populist rhetoric and religion.

His campaign was ordered to stop spending money on August 7 after passing the legal maximum of $6.8 million.

Married with two children, he has business interests in tourism, transport and real estate.


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