Millionaire supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli of the conservative Democratic Change (CD) party easily won Panama’s presidential election on May 3. With 80% of the ballots counted at around 10 PM, Martinelli had 60.62% of the votes, against 36.97% for Balbina Herrera of the governing center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Under current president Martín Torrijos, Panama has had economic growth rates approaching double digits, but growth has slowed with the global crisis. Media analysts note that Martinelli’s victory goes against the recent trend in Latin America for voters to replace conservative governments with left or center-left governments. The PRD had been losing support from the left; at Panama’s May Day celebrations, labor and activist organizations urged the thousands of participants to abstain from the voting or leave their ballots blank. Herrera was also hurt by her ties to former dictator Manual Noriega. (Reuters, May 3; La Opinión, May 2 from AP)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 3
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