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Comedian Favored to Win Guatemalan Presidency

  • VOA News

Jimmy Morales, Guatemala's independent presidential candidate, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Guatemala City, Aug. 20, 2015.

Jimmy Morales, Guatemala's independent presidential candidate, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Guatemala City, Aug. 20, 2015.

Guatemalans are voting in a presidential run-off, as a former TV comedian with no political experience is poised to win office after a corruption scandal toppled the country's last leader and fueled voter outrage with the political establishment.

Voter surveys show Jimmy Morales, 46, is set to easily win Sunday's run-off vote against former first lady Sandra Torres, who also vows to tackle corruption, but is seen by many as part of the old political order.

The conservative Morales started the race with just 0.5 percent support back in April.

Playing up his outsider status and promising clean government, he has surged in opinion polls since a probe into a multi-million dollar customs racket led to the resignation and arrest of President Otto Perez, who is awaiting trial on corruption charges.

Graft allegations

Perez is accused of masterminding a corrupt network of politicians and customs officials that allowed businesses to pay bribes to get illegal discounts on import duties.

Prosecutors and United Nations investigators say the network collected $3.8 million in bribes between May 2014 and April 2015 - including $800,000 each to Perez and jailed ex-vice president Roxana Baldetti.

The scandal, the worst in a string of recent corruption cases, has created an unprecedented climate of outrage in Guatemala, an impoverished Central American country torn by gang violence and still recovering from a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

An estimated 7.5 million people are eligible to vote in the second round.

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