GUATEMALA CITY — A former TV comedian who has never held office swept to power in Guatemala’s presidential election on Sunday after milking public anger over a corruption scandal that deepened distrust of the country’s political establishment.
Jimmy Morales, 46, overwhelmingly beat center-left rival and former first lady Sandra Torres in a run-off vote despite his lack of government experience and some policy ideas that strike many as eccentric.
The headquarters of Morales’ center-right National Convergence Front (FCN) party erupted in celebration as official returns showed he had around 68 percent support in a landslide victory.
Voters pointed to widespread discontent with Guatemala’s political class, compounded by a U.N.-backed investigation into a multi-million-dollar customs racket that led last month to the resignation and arrest of former president Otto Perez.
“As president I received a mandate, and the mandate of the people of Guatemala is to fight against the corruption that is consuming us,” Morales said on Sunday night.
Morales was already a household name following a 14-year stint on a popular TV comedy and the self-proclaimed centrist from a humble background wooed voters with promises to tackle corruption and hand out millions of smartphones to children.
“We were tired of the same faces of people who get rich off our money,” said Eduardo Tablas, a maintenance man who voted for Morales. “He knows that if he does something corrupt, all of Guatemala will be demanding that he resign.”
Last year, Morales quit his TV show, which centered on skits and lewd jokes, to run for the presidency. Back in April, he barely registered in opinion polls but he soon surged as both Perez’s government and a candidate who was then leading the presidential race became mired in corruption probes.
Morales’ manifesto was just six pages long, giving few clues as to how he might govern.