Panama Election: The people of Panama voted to elect a new president

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Panamanians began voting Sunday In an election Even though the country’s former president was not on the ballot, it was consumed by exposure to the drama surrounding him.

Voters lined up outside polling stations as scorching heat beat down on the usually sleepy Central American nation. Panamanians, eager for change after months of political turmoil and protests, are weighing promises of economic prosperity and migrant crackdowns against corruption.

More than 50 countries will go to the polls in 2024

“Panama’s election will be one of the most complicated in its modern history. The referendum was marked by increased political fragmentation and social discontent at the exit President Laurentino CortizoArantza Alonso, senior U.S. analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said before the poll began.

The presidential race remained in uncertain waters until Friday morning, when Panama’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the leading presidential candidate Jose Raul Mulino allowed to operate. It said he was eligible despite allegations that his nomination was not valid because he was not elected in the primaries.

Mulino joined the race late to replace the former president Riccardo Martinelli As a party candidate who achieves goals. The fiery Martinelli was banned from running in March after being jailed for more than 10 years for money laundering.

Martinelli, the business magnate who was Panama’s president from 2009 to 2014, dominated much of the race. He campaigned for his former running mate from within the walls of the Nicaraguan embassy He sought asylum in February After receiving political asylum. On Sunday morning, Mulino was escorted by photographers inside the Nicaraguan embassy and enveloped Martinelli in a big hug, calling him “brother.”

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In Martinelli’s absence, Mulino maintained his connection to the former president. He is rarely seen without his blue “Martinelli Mulino 2024” hat and has pledged to help Martinelli if elected, a move welcomed by the former president’s supporters.

Bus driver Juan Jose Tinoco, 63, was among those queuing outside a polling station in the coastal area of ​​Panama City. Tinoco, who lives in a working-class neighborhood of small, concrete houses surrounded by luxury skyscrapers, said he plans to vote for Mulino because it’s the closest thing to Martinelli. During the tenure of the former president.

“We have health services, education, garbage on the streets … and corruption that never goes away,” Tinoco said. “We have money here. It is a country of great wealth, but we need a leader who will dedicate himself to the needs of Panama.

Mulino promised to create the humming economy seen under Martinelli, and stopped short Migration through the Darien GapThe dangerous jungle stretch that connects Colombia and Panama was crossed by half a million migrants last year.

On many voters’ minds are the anti-mining protests that rocked the country for weeks last year and the drought that has effectively shut down trade through the Panama Canal.

Mulino’s message resonated with many voters fed up with the political establishment in Panama, with many like 68-year-old Uber driver Emanuel Romero agreeing that the country needs change, but with a new leader.

Romero’s car was painted with banners of candidate Ricardo Lombana, who denounced corruption and sought the votes of young Panamanians eager for change.

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“If we want to see corruption and our country in disarray, let’s vote for the same people. “I will vote for an independent, I believe he will do better things to save the country,” Romero said.

Mulino is leading with around 35% of the vote, while his rivals are lagging behind. According to a March poll by the Panamanian Institute of Civic Studies, former President Martin Torrijos was second with 15%, while former presidential candidates Romulo Roux and Lombana received 14% and 12%, respectively.

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