Former first lady leads Guatemalan vote

Guatemala's former first lady Sandra Torres has led the race to succeed President Jimmy Morales.
Guatemala's former first lady Sandra Torres has led the race to succeed President Jimmy Morales.

A former first lady leads early results from Guatemala's presidential election, although a second round of voting is expected to determine who will oversee the Central American nation.

With votes tallied from just over a third of polling centres, Sandra Torres captured 24 per cent of Sunday's vote, followed by four-time presidential candidate Alejandro Giammattei with 15 per cent.

Electoral Supreme Court president Julio Solorzano said the large number of contenders for the top office had slowed the vote count.

At this rate no candidate will win the more than 50 per cent of votes needed to assume the post after a first round, with a second vote likely to take place in August. Presidents are limited to a single, four-year term.

Guatemala's next president will be tasked with attempting to stem growing violence, poverty and outward migration.

An estimated one per cent of Guatemala's population of about 16 million people has left the country this year.

Guatemalans are also clamouring for a crackdown on corruption. Three of the last four elected presidents have been arrested post-presidency on charges of corruption.

Torres, 64, is a businesswoman who gained national prominence during the 2008-2012 government of her then-husband Alvaro Colom who is among the former leaders to have been accused of corruption. The couple divorced in 2011.

"There is a belief that instead of advancing in these four years of government, we've gone backward," said Marco Rene Cuellar, 39, the first to vote at the Mixed Rural School in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula.

"We've lost our way as a country, but we should not lose faith in the democratic process we have."

Businessman Roberto Arzu, diplomat Edmond Auguste Mulet Lesieur and indigenous human rights advocate Thelma Cabrera rounded out the top-five candidates for the presidency.

Australian Associated Press