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Weekly Report - 28 February 2019 (WR-19-08)

PANAMA: Candidates face off in first debate

With less than three months until general elections on 5 May, the first of two presidential debates took place last week, organised by the electoral authorities (TE). The debate revisited the issue of constitutional reform (among wider discussions as to how Panama can improve its institutions) as well as education, food security, and health. The debate takes place as surveys continue to show Laurentino Cortizo, a former agriculture minister (2004-2006) of the opposition Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), as the favourite for the presidency. He is benefiting from the lack of public support for the current Partido Panameñista (PPA) government led by President Juan Carlos Varela, unpopular due to its failure to address concerns about public corruption which have also affected the opposition Cambio Democrático (CD) whose founder and country’s former president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) was extradited from the US in June 2018 to face charges related to his activities whilst in office.

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