Mulino, Martinelli’s dolphin, wins the presidency of Panama

Mulino, Martinelli’s dolphin, wins the presidency of Panama
Mulino, Martinelli’s dolphin, wins the presidency of Panama

05/05/2024

The right-wing lawyer José Raúl Mulino won the presidency of Panama this Sunday with 34% of the vote, nine points above his immediate follower, announced the Electoral Tribunal, with 90% of polling stations scrutinized.

Mulino, 64 years old and dolphin of former president Ricardo Martinelli, He said he received the result with “responsibility and humility,” in a telephone call in which the president of the Electoral Tribunal proclaimed him the winner.

“I accept with pleasure the results expressed, these being the majority will of the Panamanian people in our democracy,” said Mulino in a hotel in the capital, amid the joy of his followers.

Minutes earlier, former consul Ricardo Lombana, also a center-right lawyer who came in second place, acknowledged his defeat. “I recognize your victory and I wish you the best of success (…) We are the first opposition force,” he expressed.

The election was held at a time when Panama is suffering from the attacks of deep-rooted corruption, a drought that reduced the transit of ships through the canal, the engine of its economy, and a wave of migrants crossing its dangerous Darien jungle on its way to the United States.

These elections were marked by the influence of Martinelli, who appointed Mulino as his replacement when he was disqualified as a candidate by his Realizing Goals party (RM, the same acronym as his name) after confirming a sentence against him of almost 11 years for money laundering.

After voting, Mulino, who was Minister of Security of the Martinelli government (2009-2014), He visited his political godfather at the Nicaraguan embassy, ​​where he has been granted asylum since February to avoid prison.

Mulino’s candidacy was endorsed by the Supreme Court of Justice just two days ago, as it had been challenged for not having gone through primaries or having a vice president on the payroll.

The presidential election is decided in a single round and with a simple majority. In a day with a participation of more than 76%, Panamanians elected in addition to the president for the next five years, 71 deputies and local governments.

Anti-Martinelli vote divided

Mulino always appeared in the polls well above his three immediate followers, in addition to Lombana, the former social democratic president. Martín Torrijos (2004-2009), with 16%, and former chancellor Rómulo Roux, with 12%. Both also acknowledged their defeat.

“They deceived themselves,” said sociologist Danilo Toro, noting that the three rivals split the anti-Martinelli vote, which favored Mulino.

For his part, the official candidate was left in the basement, according to the partial count. President Laurentino Cortizo, of the majority Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD, social democrat), is booed for the scandalous payment of juicy scholarships to politicians and their families.

Although the fatigue with corruption is palpable in the streets, Martinelli, also accused of telephone spying and bribery by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, enjoys popularity.

“Panama advanced. “Whoever does not accept it is very scoundrel,” Alberto Cedeño, a 41-year-old employee of the Colón free zone, told AFP, recalling the economic boom that the country experienced during the Martinelli government (2009-2014), driven by large Infrastructure works.

For Lina Vega, president of Transparency International in Panama, Mulino’s victory is a “triumph of impunity”, given the real possibility of offering safe passage to the 74-year-old former president to travel to Nicaragua.

Mulino, Martinelli’s former Security Minister with a reputation for being authoritarian, He must also face the migratory wave that crosses the dangerous Darién jungle, which he promised to “close.”

 
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