Guatemalan comic holds big lead ahead of Sunday election: poll

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2015 1:30 PM

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan comic Jimmy Morales should triumph easily in a second round run-off on Sunday to elect the country's next president after the arrest of the previous leader in a massive corruption scandal, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Morales, a political outsider given little hope of winning until graft probes engulfed the government of ex-president Otto Perez, is forecast to win by more than 30 points over his opponent, according to a voter survey by polling firm Prodatos.

The poll gave Morales, a self-proclaimed centrist with conservative leanings, 58.5 percent support, ahead of ex-first lady Sandra Torres, a center-left candidate, on 27.6 percent. The remainder expressed no preference for either.

Perez resigned last month just days ahead of a first round of voting after Congress stripped him of his presidential immunity and Guatemala's attorney general accused him of involvement in a multi-million dollar customs fraud.

By then, various investigations by a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body working with the attorney general had gutted the retired general's cabinet and brought about the arrest of Perez's former vice-president over the customs racket.

Both Perez and Roxana Baldetti, his ex-vice-president, are now in custody awaiting trial over the customs scam.

Public anger over the corruption scandals sparked mass protests throughout the summer against Perez and pushed 46-year-old Morales to the front of opinion polls, in part due to the fact he has no experience of elected office.

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Morales then won the first round of voting on Sept. 6, putting him into a direct run-off with Torres.

Some analysts in Guatemala say that Torres' political savvy and having the support of the machinery of one of the country's main parties could still yield a closer outcome on Sunday than some opinion polls have suggested.

The latest survey was based on 1,201 interviews between Oct. 9-14 with a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Dave Graham and Christian Plumb)