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Frustrated By Corruption, Guatemalans Vote On New President

Guatemala's interim president Alejandro Maldonado shows his finger inked after casting his vote at a polling station during general elections in Guatemala City on Sunday.
Guatemala's interim president Alejandro Maldonado shows his finger inked after casting his vote at a polling station during general elections in Guatemala City on Sunday.

Days after Guatemala's president stepped down amid a corruption scandal and was promptly sent to jail, voters went to the polls to select his replacement.

As The Associated Press explains:

"Most are old-guard candidates picked to run before energized prosecutors backed by a mass anti-corruption movement toppled the previous administration. Many voters are so skeptical that they campaigned for the election itself to be postponed to give them a new crop of choices.

"Leading in most polls with roughly 30 percent backing is Manuel Baldizon, a wealthy 44-year-old businessman and longtime politician. His running mate is accused by prosecutors of influence trafficking, but as a candidate enjoys immunity from prosecution."

Reuters says:

"Voter anger over corruption has helped a little-known comedian to surge in opinion polls, while the three main contenders have vowed a crackdown on graft after mass protests on the streets.

"'It has taken a long time to get rid of bad eggs. Thanks to God and to the brave people who had the guts to stand up to the government,' 58-year-old pilot Edgar Solis said after polls opened.

"... Polls in the run-up to Sunday's vote showed Jimmy Morales, a 46-year-old centrist and comic actor whose slogan 'not corrupt, not a thief,' has resonated with disenchanted voters."

Sandra Torres, a former first lady whose politics are center-left, rounds out the field. The latest polls show that the tight race is unlikely to result in any candidate getting the required 50 percent of the vote to avoid an Oct. 25 runoff.

A new Congress and hundreds of mayors are also to be decided.

But, as The Wall Street Journal notes: "many voters won't even go to the polls. As many as a fifth are expected to submit blank ballots because of their disaffection with the political system."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.