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Weekly Report - 09 May 2019 (WR-19-18)

Cortizo triumphs in tight Panamanian electoral contest

Laurentino ‘Nito’ Cortizo of the opposition Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) won Panama’s presidential elections on 5 May. His victory stemmed in part from his ability to capitalise on public frustration with the failure by President Juan Carlos Varela of the Partido Panameñista (PPA) to address corruption or the slowing economy. The narrowness of Cortizo’s margin of victory (less than three percentage points) over Romulo Roux, of the also opposition Cambio Democrático (CD) led Heriberto Araúz, the president of the electoral authorities (TE), to pronounce the contest the “tightest” in Panama’s “history”. While the result heralds a return to power after a decade for the PRD, the country’s biggest party, Cortizo obtained the lowest percentage of any presidential victor for 25 years, casting doubt on the strength of his mandate. Yet, with a stronger presence in the 71-member unicameral legislature than his predecessor enjoyed and a positive economic scenario looming, Cortizo looks set to take over in July under more favourable circumstances.

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