• Sunday, Dec 04, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Panama's Cortizo wins presidential race, calls for national unity

  • Published at 06:11 am May 6th, 2019
WEB- Panama
Presidential candidate Laurentino Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) celebrates after Panama's electoral tribunal declared him as the winner of Sunday's election with 95 percent of votes counted, in Panama City, Panama May 5, 2019 Reuters

Second-place candidate Romulo Roux lagged just two points behind Cortizo

US-educated political veteran Laurentino "Nito" Cortizo won Panama's presidential election in an unprecedented close race with the electoral tribunal declaring a winner after 95% of votes had been counted.

The results were announced on Sunday.

In his victory speech, Cortizo called for national unity, after winning just a third of the votes with the country clearly divided about its choice in the one-round election.

"Panama won today, and today more than ever, Panama needs to join forces," the former agriculture minister told cheering supporters in the midnight speech at his campaign hotel.

During the campaign he vowed to clean up politics after Panama's image was tarnished by a corruption scandal involving Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht, and the Panama Papers leak of millions of documents detailing tax evasion by the world's wealthy in the nation famous for its canal.

"Panamanians do not want, or merit, and won't put up with more of the same," Cortizo added. "The chaos is over. Public funds belong to the public, and they are sacred."

He takes office on July 1 and will have to balance relations with Washington and Beijing, after outgoing President Juan Carlos Varela rankled the US by formally establishing diplomatic ties with China, now the second largest canal client.

Second-place candidate Romulo Roux lagged just two points behind and was reluctant to concede, saying he had found some irregularities in ballots in some voting areas.

Varela congratulated Cortizo in a call broadcast live in an apparent bid to show stability after the tight result.

No election in the Central American nation has produced such a narrow result since the 1989 restoration of democracy that followed the US invasion to topple dictator Manuel Noriega.

The atmosphere had been tense at the hotel where Cortizo's supporters gathered for hours to await their candidate, holding his Democratic Revolution Party's (PRD) red, white and blue flags.

They broke into cheers of "Nito, Nito, Nito!" after the electoral tribunal called with the news.

Roux, 54, who previously worked at the authority that governs the canal and was foreign minister under jailed former president Ricardo Martinelli, posted on Twitter shots of ballot tallies he said were miscounted, as evidence of irregularities he said could change the result.

He said his party needed to see all the tallies from across the country before accepting a result, but stopped short of saying he had won.

Opinion polls ahead of the May 5 election had given Cortizo a much wider lead, failing to measure the support for a young anti-establishment party whose candidate, Ricardo Lombardo, garnered almost a fifth of votes.

Both Cortizo and Roux represent long-established parties.

"In part, it's been a surprise, but in the end, the Panamanian people have made the right decision," said Tomas Vega, a PRD candidate for Congress.

Cortizo, whose children have US passports and who still flies to Austin each year to watch college football team the Texas Longhorns, says he wants to improve ties with the US.

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail