A Comedian With No Political Experience Just Became the President of Guatemala
On Sunday, Jimmy Morales, a TV comedian who used to have his own show and is known for his crude comedy, won the presidency in a run-off election, with nearly 70% of the vote.
Morales, 46, who ran on a conservative platform and has no previous political experience, beat the more liberal Sandra Torres, a former first lady who represented the establishment for many voters.
The Guatemalan government has been mired in corruption and scandal of late, including President Otto Pérez Molina's resignation and Sept. 3 arrest. The United Nations led an investigation into racketeering during Molina's incumbency.
Morales' campaign was staunchly anti-establishment and appears to have capitalized on the electorate's disillusionment with their most recent government.
"As president, I received a mandate — and the mandate of the people of Guatemala is to fight against the corruption that is consuming us," Morales said after his victory, according to Reuters.
However, some warn the new president won't have long to execute his vision before Guatemalans become impatient, particularly given that not much is known about his intentions for or method of the political overhaul.
"If Morales fails to bring some change in the near future, I think we'll be seeing protesters on the streets again," Nineth Montenegro, a social activist and leader of the small political party Encounter for Guatemala, told the Wall Street Journal. "Guatemalans appear to be giving Morales the benefit of the doubt, but the tolerance threshold is very low."
Morales' political manifesto was only six pages, which suggests the president-elect has indeed been afforded the benefit of the doubt. His platform included unusual proposals, such as affixing GPS devices to teachers in order to ensure they attend their own classes. Ironically, Morales promised a laissez-faire government with limited reach.
Morales' work on TV has also raised eyebrows, with the BBC pointing out a sketch in which "he donned blackface and wore a prosthetic behind." Morales did not apologize, writing it off as an innocuous joke appreciated by people of all backgrounds, says the Guardian.
His tenure is sure to face challenges given his party, the National Convergence Front, has extremely limited influence in Congress: Out of 158 seats, his party holds 11.
Whatever his mandate, Morales, who will assume office on Jan. 14, is likely to face scrutiny for impropriety, given Guatemala's recent political history.
"He knows that if he does something corrupt, all of Guatemala will be demanding that he resign," Eduardo Tablas, a Morales supporter and maintenance man, told NBC.