On 25 October, Jimmy Morales of the conservative National Convergence Front (FCN) convincingly won the second round of the Guatemalan presidential election. A former comedian, he rode a wave of popular discontent with traditional politics to secure 67% of the runoff vote, thus easily defeating former first lady Sandra Torres of the centre-left National Unity of Hope (UNE). Given the large-scale corruption scandal that continues to plague Guatemala (see here for earlier reporting), political inexperience may indeed have been Morales' greatest asset. Since early September, when former president Otto Pérez Molina was forced to step down due to alleged high-level involvement in the scandal, Morales’ slogan ‘neither corrupt nor a thief’ clearly resonated with the public.

Impact on country risk

Apart from popular appeal, Jimmy Morales’ inexperience also provokes uncertainty about political stability in the years ahead. Most critically, it remains to be seen whether the new president – due to take office on 14 January 2016 – will be able to muster enough congressional support to pass laws. In legislative elections held simultaneously with the first round of the presidential election on 6 September, Morales’ FCN won just 11 of the 158 seats, making it only the fifth largest party in Congress. The new president will thus need to reach out to the established parties he railed so fiercely during the election campaign. It remains to be seen whether they will be willing to collaborate.

Analyst: Sebastian Vanderlinden, s.vanderlinden@credendogroup.com