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Panama election: Voters to choose president after front-runner sentenced

  • By Vanessa Buschschlüter
  • BBC News

Legend, Many Martinelli voters expected to transfer their votes to Mr Mulino

Panamanians are voting in a general election that has been overshadowed by the disqualification of the man who led in the polls.

Former President Ricardo Martinelli was the favorite until he was banned from running after being convicted of money laundering.

His replacement on the electoral lists, José Raúl Mulino, is leading in the polls.

Whoever wins the most votes in this round will be declared president and will be sworn in on July 1.

A total of eight candidates are vying for the presidency, and voters will also choose members of Panama’s National Assembly.

Since presidents cannot serve two consecutive terms, the outgoing president, Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, will not seek re-election.

Opinion polls put Mr. Mulino in the lead. The 64-year-old lawyer, member of the Realizando Metas (Achieve the Goals) party, was Mr. Martinelli’s running mate.

But after Mr. Martinelli was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison for money laundering, Mr. Mulino joined the race for president.

However, Mr. Mulino’s candidacy also faced legal challenges.

Panama’s highest court was asked to decide whether Mr. Mulino’s failure to be chosen by his party in the usual primary elections invalidated his candidacy.

On Friday, just two days before the election, the court finally ruled that his candidacy was constitutional.

Mr. Mulino benefits from the support of his former running mate, Ricardo Martinelli, who has lived since February in the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama City, where he obtained political asylum.

From a small room in the embassy, ​​Martinelli posted video messages of support for Mr. Mulino, who served as his interior and security minister.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Mr. Martinelli has been living at the Nicaraguan embassy since February

He has not specified how he would close the dangerous route, but has made stopping immigration an important part of his “law and order” proposals.

A number of recent opinion polls put Mr. Mulino in the lead, but with about a fifth of registered voters still saying they are undecided, his rivals still have a chance.

Two of those hoping to beat Mr. Mulino are also well-known names in Panamanian politics.

Martín Torrijos served as president from 2004 to 2009 and is the son of Omar Torrijos, the military leader who signed a treaty with the United States to restore Panamanian sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone in 1977.

The 60-year-old is campaigning under the slogan “Safe Change”. He promised to invest in the Panama Canal, one of the main engines of Panama’s economy.

Legend, Martín Torrijos has already been president and he campaigns simply under his first name

He represents the People’s Party, which he joined last year after leading the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD).

Rómulo Roux, 59, former president of the board of directors of the Panama Canal, is running for the national presidency for the second time, after losing to current President Laurentino Cortizo in 2019.

The lawyer, who represents the Democratic Change party, says that if elected he would implement an “aggressive” job creation program and improve public services.

Legend, Rómulo Roux is among those campaigning in Panama City

He also said he would not support reopening a controversial copper mine, even though he worked for the law firm that represented the mine.

Another candidate seeking the presidency for a second time is Ricardo Lombana.

Legend, Ricardo Lombana runs for president for a second time

The 49-year-old attorney ran as an independent in 2019 and is running this time for the Other Way movement.

Mr Lombana rejected Mr Mulino’s promise to “close” the Darién gap, telling the Spanish news agency Efe that “migration, since humanity has existed, has not been stopped by walls” .

Instead, he proposes improving security conditions for migrants crossing Panama on their way north.

Polling stations will open at 7:00 a.m. local time (12:00 GMT) and close nine hours later. Preliminary results should be known shortly after the close of voting.

News Source :
Gn world

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