After Low Voter Turnout, Comedian Jimmy Morales Is Elected Guatemala’s President

Lead Photo: Jorge Dan Lopez / Reuters
Jorge Dan Lopez / Reuters
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This weekend’s runoff election in Guatemala swept Jimmy Morales, a comedian with no previous political experience who is known for his blackface caricature named Black Pitaya, into the presidency. His election comes after months of incessant protesting both on and offline forced former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to step down in September, a mid a corruption scandal.  The protest movement – with phrases #RenunciaYa and #YoNoTengoPresidente becoming national symbols – joined middle and lower classes together and seemed like a turning point in Guatemalan politics.

However, the emergence of Morales and former first lady Sandra Torres as the only two viable candidates somewhat deflated the air of excitement and pride swelling in the Central American country. When the election came around this weekend, only 32 percent of voters cast their votes, according to teleSUR. Morales’ victory may have been decisive, but many on the ground suggested this was more out of a desire to avoid an old guard candidate like Torres.

“People aren’t voting for the candidate they really want, but rather to reject the other options,” Pedro Trujillo, director of the political science department at Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City told the LA Times.

It wasn’t just the empty polls that showed people’s apathy. On social media, #QuedeQuienQuede began trending in Guatemala, a suggestion that either candidate will produce the same results. Joining an increasing number of entertainers-turned-politicans, Morales won 67.4 percent of the vote, while Torres only received 32.6 percent, according to the BBC.

Morales called his win a “brave vote, a vote full of hope, a vote which wants to put an end to corruption.” But critics say he has no clear proposed policies, and furthermore that his campaign has troubling ties to several army officials connected to civil war crimes. But neither these allegations, nor his comedic legacy of jokes at the expense of black and indigenous people, did much to impact his popularity.

For Guatemalans, it seems like electing a candidate with no ties to the political establishment is the lesser of two evils.