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Guatemala Faces Run-off Presidential Election


Television comedian and presidential candidate for the National Front of Convergence party Jimmy Morales, flashes a victory sign to his supporters at his party headquarters in Guatemala City, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015.

Guatemala faces a presidential run-off after the leading candidates at the polls on Sunday failed to secure the votes needed to avoid a second round of elections next month.

Jimmy Morales, a comedic actor and political novice, led with 24 percent according to early results.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting by late Monday morning, only a few thousand votes separate conservative businessman Manuel Baldizon and former first lady, social democrat Sandra Torres. Both are are vying for runner-up, each with about 19 percent.

The run-off is scheduled for October 25.

'Not corrupt, not a thief'

Morales' campaign slogan "not corrupt, not a thief" resonated with voters after a bribery scandal ended in the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina on Thursday.

Baldizon lost to Perez Molina during the last election cycle following a run-off in 2011.

Voter turn-out on Sunday was on par with the previous presidential race, with official polling data indicating 5.2 million Guatemalans — 69 percent of registered voters — casting ballots.

An electoral worker counts ballots at a polling station in Guatemala City, Sept. 6, 2015.
An electoral worker counts ballots at a polling station in Guatemala City, Sept. 6, 2015.

The presidential, congressional and municipal elections are for a four-year term to begin in 2016. Until then, former Vice President Alejandro Maldonado will lead Guatemala.

Perez Molina said in court he is innocent of accusations that he accepted $800,000 from business owners in an alleged bribery ring.

In court

The former president said in court Friday that he accepted no bribes and bragged that he had been offered — and refused — 10 times that amount from fugitive drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman when the Mexican drug kingpin was captured in 1993.

Protesters had demanded Perez Molina's resignation for months.

He has not yet been formally charged and is set to appear in court on Tuesday.