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José Raúl Mulino, the front-runner, is elected president of Panama.

Mr. Mulino, a former safety minister, received aid within the chaotic marketing campaign from an ex-president whose bid were disqualified.
Panamanians on Sunday elected José Raúl Mulino, a former public security minister, as their next president, within the fruits of an election cycle that has been embroiled in political turmoil.

Mr. Mulino, 64, centered his campaign on task boom and promised to increase tourism and construct a rail line connecting Panama City, the capital, with the country’s interior that would create creation jobs. He also pledged to boom agricultural production, decrease the price of drugs and provide free internet get entry to to colleges.

Mr. Mulino obtained 34 percent of the vote with extra than ninety percent of the votes counted on Sunday, in line with the us of a’s electoral tribunal, which declared him the winner of the single-spherical race. He had a 10 percent point lead over his closest competitor, Ricardo Lombana, a former diplomat. Mr. Mulino will assume office on July 1, taking on from the departing president, Laurentino Cortizo.

“It’s an honor for me, for my family, for my buddies, to receive this call,” Mr. Mulino said in a victory speech in Panama City on Sunday night time. His election, he stated, “implies an large weight on my shoulders,” including that he promised to do his exceptional for the united states.
In a field of eight candidates, Mr. Mulino led the polls, vowing to go back Panama to the economic boom it skilled below Ricardo Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014.

Mr. Martinelli, who’s recognised to his supporters as “El loco,” or the crazy one, have been a top presidential contender until he turned into disqualified earlier this year because of a cash-laundering conviction in 2023. But from in the Nicaraguan Embassy in Panama City, in which he become granted asylum, Mr. Martinelli strenuously campaigned for Mr. Mulino, who become his running mate and took his vicinity on the ballot .

Mr. Mulino’s marketing campaign followed the slogan “The crazy one with Mulino.”

Carlos Taylor, 71, a waiter, said that he had no longer had time to examine Mr. Mulino’s proposals. He voted for him at a public school in Panama City because of Mr. Martinelli.

“With most effective the fact that Martinelli is accompanying him, I agree with him,” he stated. “When Martinelli was president, everything turned into better for us.”

He brushed off Mr. Martinelli’s cash laundering conviction, announcing that different public officials scouse borrow but, not like the former president, don’t get investigated for it.

“Everyone does it,” he stated.

Political chaos characterised the election, which came about amid great frustration with the modern government and within the aftermath of fundamental protests closing year towards a copper-mining agreement that demonstrators stated could harm the environment.

The applicants competed for a five-12 months time period in a single-spherical vote. Panama does no longer allow incumbent presidents to run for a 2nd consecutive time period. Voters additionally chose representatives for the National Assembly and neighborhood governments.

Panama has emerged as one of the Western Hemisphere’s fastest-developing economies way to the growth of the Panama Canal, free-trade agreements that have drawn buyers and the usage of the US greenback as a nearby foreign money.

But in March, Panama’s credit score score was downgraded through the Fitch Ratings corporation. The country’s economic output is predicted to develop handiest 2.5 percentage this yr, down from 7.Five percent in 2023.

That slowdown is largely a result of the Supreme Court’s choice to declare the copper mining agreement unconstitutional and the government’s next selection to close the mine, in accordance the International Monetary Fund. (The World Bank forecasts quicker increase starting subsequent yr.)

Mr. Mulino will have to contend with a bunch of different troubles, together with a worsening humanitarian disaster as masses of lots of migrants go a jungle route straddling Panama and Colombia referred to as the Darién Gap. Aid organizations have suggested an alarming spike in assaults alongside the Panamanian facet of the distance, including rape.

The president-select has pledged to shut down the crossing and deport migrants who smash Panamanian law, pronouncing that he “will no longer allow thousands of illegals to bypass through our territory like not anything, with out control.”

Water issues had been also a valuable election problem. A recent drought driven by means of low rainfall has decreased water ranges within the Panama Canal, ensuing in fewer ships being allowed thru. Mr. Mulino promised to make clean water to be had in groups that lack it.

He additionally vowed to cope with the high deficit plaguing Panama’s pension device and to create new jobs in a rustic that struggles with a shortage of professional exertions and a high number of casual people.

Like other candidates, Mr. Mulino avoided referring to contentious social problems and did not emphasize a selected political ideology in his marketing campaign.

Despite Mr. Martinelli’s disqualification, Mr. Mulino’s campaign used the previous president’s image in promotional materials and leaned heavily on his legacy, which includes overseeing a multibillion-dollar enlargement of the Panama Canal and inaugurating a subway gadget in Panama City.
Mr. Mulino called Mr. Martinelli’s corruption trial, which led to a ten-yr sentence, a “setup” and said that he have been politically persecuted, too.

In 2015, Mr. Mulino changed into arrested and spent several months in jail on fees of embezzlement tied to a multimillion-dollar agreement he signed in 2010 for the purchase of radars when he served as a public protection minister under Mr. Martinelli.

The Supreme Court later ruled that there have been procedural violations and upheld a decrease court’s dismissal of the expenses, even though it left the opportunity that the case may be reopened. (On Friday, the high courtroom ruled that Mr. Mulino’s candidacy turned into prison after a task argued that he should not be in the race because he isn’t running alongside a vice-presidential candidate because the usa’s Constitution calls for.)

It’s uncertain what Mr. Mulino’s win will suggest for Mr. Martinelli’s scenario. Panama’s Foreign Ministry has declined Nicaragua’s request to permit Mr. Martinelli to leave the united states of america.


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