Opposition hopeful - and incumbent vice president - Juan Carlos Varela has won Panama’s presidential election.
With more than 90 percent of the ballots counted, Varela has 39.14 percent of the vote, compared with 31.69 percent for Jose Domingo Arias, candidate of the governing conservative coalition.
Juan Carlos Navarro, standard-bearer of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, garnered 27.8 percent of the vote, the Electoral Tribunal said Monday.
“We’re a single country, a single people and we will govern for all Panamanians. The epoch of confrontation and disrespect is now history and a humane government is coming ... that is going to govern for all with equity,” Varela, a 51-year-old businessman, said in his first speech following Sunday’s vote.
Arias acknowledge Varela’s triumph and committed himself to being part of a “constructive” opposition.
“I want to congratulate Varela,” said Arias shyly before fellow party members gathered at his campaign headquarters and immediately thereafter he committed himself to “follow the country closely ... working so that this country has the best.”
President Ricardo Martinelli did the same thing, emphasizing that during the entire campaign his pupil and the governing coalition were the targets of a dirty war and incomparable media attacks.
“I know what’s on the other side and God help you,” the president said, referring to Varela, his old ally and who moved to the opposition in 2011 amid accusations of government corruption, fighting which was one of the hallmarks of his election campaign.
Martinelli on Monday congratulated “the new president for his resounding triumph.”
Varela’s victory surprised many, given that he had been third in the voter surveys prior to the balloting.
Election day transpired completely normally and turnout was high.
Almost 2.5 million Panamanians were eligible to vote for president, vice president, lawmakers and hundreds of municipal officials for the 2014-2019 period.
The new president takes office on July 1.