Former comedian Morales sworn in as Guatemala president

Jimmy Morales takes reins of power riding on the back of public anger at rampant corruption among political elite.

A former TV comedian has been sworn in as Guatemala’s new president on the back of widespread public anger at government corruption. 

Jimmy Morales used his inaugural address on Thursday evening to promise more transparency in the country’s political system but cautioned that it would take time for change to come.

“A new Guatemala is possible, and it’s worth the struggle. Of course things could be better, but I want you to bear in mind things don’t change overnight … we’re passing from the darkness of corruption to the dawn of transparency,” Morales said.

Comedian elected Guatemala president

Morales won elections in October last year on a platform of putting an end to the country’s spate of multimillion-dollar corruption scandals.

In August protests erupted against former President Otto Perez Molina after investigators accused government officials of taking bribes from businesses looking to avoid paying import duties in a scandal known as “La Linea” (the line).

Molina later resigned and has been jailed pending a decision on whether he will stand trial on corruption charges. 

Morales was the surprise winner of October’s vote, taking most votes in the first round and then beating former vice-president Sandra Torres in the runoff.

Obstacles to reform

Despite the win, analyst Roberto Wagner told Al Jazeera that Morales will struggle to push through the reforms needed to satisfy those who voted for him.

“It is the make or break year, definitely. We’re finally going to know what Jimmy’s made of,” Wagner said.

“We’re finally going to know if he is able to make up a team of people that are going to support him.” 

Al Jazeera spoke to some of the hundreds of protesters who had been in the capital Guatemala City’s central park on Thursday, many eager to stress the importance of Morales keeping his promises.

“This year we are starting by demanding that the government is transparent and that it is honest, like it should be … this is our main objective,” the protester said.

Al Jazeera’s David Mercer, reporting from Guatemala City, said the biggest obstacle Morales faced was passing his proposals through a deeply divided congress.

“With his party having less than 10 percent of the seats, and with Congress already highly fragmented, experts predict that it will be incredibly difficult for him to push through any significant reforms.” 

Inside Story: Can corruption be wiped out in Guatemala?

Source: Al Jazeera