Panama elections: Voters choose the president after judging the most likely candidate

  • Written by Vanessa Buchschlotter
  • BBC News

Comment on the photo, Many of Martinelli’s voters are expected to transfer their votes to Mr. Molyneux

Voters in Panama cast their ballots in a general election that was clouded by the exclusion of the man who was leading at the polls.

Former President Ricardo Martinelli was the most likely candidate to win until he was banned from running after being convicted of money laundering.

His replacement, Jose Raul Molino, is leading in the polls.

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

Eight candidates are competing for the presidency, and voters will also choose members of Panama’s National Assembly.

Since presidents cannot serve two consecutive terms, the current president, Laurentino “Neto” Cortizo, will not run for re-election.

Opinion polls put Molyneux in the lead. The 64-year-old lawyer, who belongs to the Realizando Mitas (Achieving Goals) party, was Martinelli’s vice-presidential candidate.

But after Martinelli was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison for money laundering, Molino joined the presidential race.

However, Molyneux’s nomination also faced legal challenges.

Panama’s Supreme Court was asked to decide whether Molino’s failure to be selected by his party in the regular primaries invalidated his candidacy.

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

From a small room in the embassy, ​​Martinelli was posting video messages in support of Mr. Molino, who served as interior and security minister.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Martinelli has been living at the Nicaraguan embassy since February

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

A number of recent opinion polls have put Mr Molyneux in front, but with about a fifth of registered voters saying they remain undecided, his rivals still have a big chance.

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

Martin Torrijos was president from 2004 to 2009. He is the son of Omar Torrijos, the military ruler who signed a treaty with the United States to return the Panama Canal Zone to Panamanian sovereignty 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.

Comment on the photo, Martin Torrijos has been president before and his campaign carried only his first name

He is running for the People’s Party, which he joined last year after leading the Revolutionary Democratic Party.

Romulo Ro (59 years old), former Chairman 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.

Comment on the photo, Romulo Roo is an election campaigner in Panama City

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

Another candidate who is trying to reach the presidency for a second time is Ricardo Lombana.

Comment on the photo, Ricardo Lombana is making a second attempt to run for president

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

Lombana rejected Molyneux’s promise to “close” the Darien Gap, telling the Spanish news agency Efe that “migration, since the existence of humanity, has not been stopped by walls.”

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

Polling stations are scheduled to open at 07:00 local time (12:00 GMT) and close nine hours later. Preliminary results are expected to appear shortly after the polls close.

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