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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