Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala election: Run-off due as Jimmy Morales leads polls

Guatemalan presidential candidate for the National Front of Convergence (FCN) party, Jimmy Morales (C), speaks to supporters after the preliminary results for the general elections, at their party headquarters in Guatemala City early on 7 September 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jimmy Morales dominated Sunday's polls

Comic actor Jimmy Morales is leading Guatemala's presidential election, as two other candidates battle head to head to get a place in a run-off vote.

Mr Morales, who campaigned against corruption, has taken about 24% of the 97% votes so far counted.

Centre-right businessman Manuel Baldizon and ex-first lady Sandra Torres are tied with about 19.5%.

Sunday's vote came days after the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina over corruption allegations.

With no candidate taking 50% of the vote, a second round of voting has been scheduled for 25 October.

Neck and neck

The race for a place in the run-off is close, with Ms Torres - the ex-wife of former president Alvaro Colom - ahead of Mr Baldizon by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Electoral officials said about 70% turned out to vote on Sunday. A recount is under way for several hundred ballots before a final result will be announced, they added.

As well as a new president, Guatemalans were voting for a vice-president, a new congress and local authorities.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Leftist and former first lady Sandra Torres is inching closer to a place in the run-off

Many had called for the polls to be postponed in the wake of the allegations.

"The people are tired of more of the same," Mr Morales, 46, told reporters after hearing of his lead.

"Guatemala wants change and to not be governed by people with dark pasts," he said, after voting near Guatemala City.

Mr Baldizon was previously a favourite to win before Mr Morales saw a late surge of support in opinion polls off the back of the unfolding corruption scandal. Several of Mr Baldizon's allies had been linked to the scandal.

Ex-President Otto Perez Molina denies involvement in a scheme in which businessmen paid bribes to evade customs charges.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Voters queued up from the early hours of Sunday to cast their ballots
Image copyright AP
Image caption Manuel Baldizon had a comfortable lead in opinion polls until a month ago

There had been calls for Guatemalans to wear black clothes of mourning as they cast their vote, amid scepticism that the poll could achieve political change.

But voters queued from the early hours to cast their ballots. Some 7.5 million people were eligible to vote.

A judge will decide on Tuesday whether to indict former President Molina.

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