A television comedian and actor, who never held any political office or had any real experience, became the president of Guatemala in a run-off election with nearly 70 percent of the votes, beating a former first lady representing the establishment for many voters.
Jimmy Morales, an entertainer who used to have his own show and was recognized for his crude humor, had no political experience whatsoever, and his policy ideas were what one might call eccentric. Nonetheless, he swept into power rather overwhelmingly and defeated center-left rival Sandra Torres with a landslide, when just six months ago he was commanding less than 1 percent in polls.
What exactly happened in the past few months that resulted in Morales’ victory?
Although his triumph has given way to many speculations, there are few very concrete reasons Guatemalan chose the 46-year-old to run their country – as pointed out by one Reddit user.
The Lesser Evil
Various corruption scandals, including the one that led to President Otto Perez Molina's resignation and arrest during his incumbency, created a deep mistrust of country’s political establishment in the hearts of Guatemala’s public.
After a United Nations backed investigation accused Molina and the vice president of taking bribes to let imports in legally without paying duties in customs, the citizens of the Latin American country started viewing Morales as the “least worst option” – hence, the victory.
His Simple Campaign
Morales's campaign slogan “Not corrupt, not a thief” really cut to the heart of country whose political class was terminally corrupted.
He had a small campaign, which people saw as a good thing because large campaigns are usually considered an investment. Moreover, his political manifesto only had six pages and his platform included unusual ideas, such as affixing GPS devices to teachers in order to ensure they attend their own classes.
“As president, I received a mandate — and the mandate of the people of Guatemala is to fight against the corruption that is consuming us,” the newly elected president said after his victory.
He Is Not A Politician
Morales ran on a conservative platform, and his inexperience turned out to be the biggest reason of his success.
The voters were looking for a candidate without a history of corruption and scandals, someone who will not win the elections to earn millions and someone whose face they had not gotten tired of already. In this respect, Morales was their safest bet.
People did not see him as a politician. They saw him as an outsider with no relation to establishment, which became his biggest advantage in the elections. Although he is related to military, voters did not see it as a problem since they have nothing against military. The government remained the only problem.
Morales will assume office on Jan. 14, and despite his mandate, his tenure is sure to face challenges – mainly because his party, the National Convergence Front, only holds 11 out of 158 seats in Congress.
“If Morales fails to bring some change in the near future, I think we'll be seeing protesters on the streets again,” said Nineth Montenegro, a social activist and leader of the small political party Encounter for Guatemala. “Guatemalans appear to be giving Morales the benefit of the doubt, but the tolerance threshold is very low.”
It looks like Guatemalans have taken the first step toward the transformation of the system, hopefully for the better, serving a great example to other countries that are awaiting the selection of a new president.