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Panamanians head to polls for presidential election

Panama goes to the polls today to choose a new president after the Electoral Tribunal ruled that the front-runner can compete, replacing a former President who is forbidden from running after a conviction for money laundering.

By James Blears

Jose Raul Mulino, who is the former Foreign Minister, former Justice Secretary, and ex-Security Minister, was the running mate of former President Ricardo Martinelli, who was convicted of money laundering last year. This carries an eleven-year prison sentence, which Martinelli is appealing. He has sought refuge in Nicaragua’s embassy, which has granted him asylum.

The Electoral Tribunal barred Mulino from running, but the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court, just two days before the Election. Now, at almost the last moment in almost the final hour, Mulino is now the confirmed candidate of the Realizing Goals party, rather than the running mate, even though he did not participate in the primaries.

Listen to James Blears’ report

Candidates pledge to fight corruption

Mulino has thirty per cent support in opinion polls. His nearest rival among eight candidates is former President Martin Torrijos who has only five percent support.

The result will come in the first and only round of voting. There are also simultaneous elections for the National Assembly.

All candidates promise to tackle corruption and curb immigration flows through the Darian Gap. Mulino is promising to restore economic prosperity to Panama.

The Bishops’ Conference is calling for a vote of liberty and conscience and is backing this up with four thousand observers to try and ensure transparency.

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