Panama’s 2024 Election: What to Know

  • Why does this election matter?

  • Who is running?

  • What are the main issues?

  • Who is expected to win?

  • When will we learn the result?

  • Where can I find more information?

Why does this election matter?

Political crisis has embroiled Panama’s May 5 presidential election, exacerbating uncertainty in a country dealing with drought and fallout from widespread protests.

Former President Ricardo Martinelli, who had appeared in polls as the front-runner, was disqualified from running after he received a 10-year sentence for money laundering. Panama’s Electoral Tribunal has allowed his running mate, a former public security minister named José Raúl Mulino, to take his place. Mr. Martinelli claims he is being politically persecuted.

Mr. Martinelli governed Panama during a period of strong economic growth and was popular despite his conviction. Mr. Mulino seems to have inherited his following. The result is a paradox: Although Panamanians see corruption as one of the country’s most pressing problems, they have also shown the highest support for Mr. Mulino, who strongly backs Mr. Martinelli.

The election takes place amid wide frustration with the political establishment. The current president, Laurentino Cortizo, from Panama’s largest political party, is extremely unpopular and has weathered corruption scandals. His administration drew enormous protests, with Panamanians paralyzing the country in 2023 to oppose a copper-mining contract that critics said would endanger the environment.

Political conflicts and social upheaval have affected the climate for foreign investment, an area that Panama relies on heavily. In March, Fitch Ratings downgraded Panama’s credit rating, citing the government’s closing of the mine after the protests. Growth of the country’s gross domestic product is expected to decline to 2.5 percent in 2024 from 7.5 percent in 2023 as a result of the closure, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Who is running?

Eight candidates are competing for a five-year term in a single-round vote. Panama does not permit incumbent presidents to run for a second consecutive term. Panama is also choosing its representatives on the National Assembly and in local governments.

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