Panama. On May 3, businessman Ricardo Martinelli from center-right alliance Alianza por el Cambio won a landslide victory in the presidential election with 60 percent of the votes cast, against only 37 percent for the opponent, Balbina Herrera of the ruling party Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD). It was the first time a candidate won by an absolute majority of votes and also marked the weakening of Panama’s traditional two-party system, which Martinelli accused during the election campaign of being responsible for the notorious corruption in the country. The defeat of the ruling party was, however, a bit surprising as former President Martín Torrijos enjoyed a high degree of popularity during his term. According to countryaah, Herrera, on the other hand, has been accused of conspiring with the former dictator Manuel Noriega. Martinelli swore president on July 1. At the same time, Martinelli’s alliance won 37 of the new congressional’s 71 seats, and his own party, Cambio Democrático, quadrupled its seats to twelve. At the same time, the government coalition Un País para Todo’s mandate was halved in Congress.
The only bright spot for the government coalition’s most important party PRD was that in the local elections held at the same time, more than half of 623 seats in municipal councils around the country succeeded, and no less than 62 of 75 mayoral positions. The election of Bosco Vallarino from one of Martinelli’s alliance parties to mayor of Panama City, the country’s most important post-presidential office, became controversial when it emerged that he had American citizenship and therefore should not have been allowed to run.
Economically, high hopes are tied to the redevelopment of the Panama Canal, budgeted at $ 5.2 billion and approved in 2007, which will largely end during Martinelli’s term in office.