Sun, 19 May 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

Panama election: Mulino declared president-elect

Update : 06 May 2024, 12:20

Jose Raul Mulino, the stand-in candidate for disqualified former President Ricardo Martinelli, was declared Panama's president-elect after elections Sunday.

Panama's electoral authority announced Mulino's win, after he gathered 34.4% of the votes, with over 85% of the votes counted.

"I promise to the country at this time to put together, to establish, a government of unity as soon as possible," Mulino said after electoral officials called him to confirm he had won the presidency.

Eight candidates were competing to replace the center-left President Laurentino Cortizo, who by law is limited to one consecutive term.

Mulino only officially joined the race on Friday after his former running mate was forced to drop out over a money laundering conviction.

Mulino's legal problems

Mulino took over the candidacy of the Realizing Goals (RM) party from ex-President Ricardo Martinelli after the latter lost an appeal against his conviction.

Mulino then faced his own problems after his candidacy was challenged on the basis of not having won a primary vote and not having picked a running mate, which is a requirement by law.

But the Supreme Court threw out the complaint on Friday, leaving Mulino free to run. Most Panamanians assume that Martinelli will still run the show from behind the scenes. 

What do Panamanian voters care about?

Polls show that voters' main concerns are the high cost of living, access to drinking water and crime. Around one-third of the rural population lives in poverty and some 45% of jobs are in the informal sector with unemployment reaching 10%.

The small country, with a population of around 4.4 million people, is highly dependent on the Panama Canal which allows about 6% of global maritime trade to bypass the South American continent.

However, a crippling drought has limited the amount of traffic that can pass through, causing a knock-on effect on the local economy.

Last year, the country also saw more than half a million people cross the Darien Gap — a thick jungle region — as they tried to reach the US from South America.

Mulino has pledged to end migration through the Darien Gap and to return the economy to its heyday under Martinelli's previous presidency.

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