Mulino declared that he was the winner of the presidential election

CNN

José Raúl Mulino, a rightwing former public security minister, was declared the “unofficial” winner of Panama’s presidential election on Sunday, the country’s electoral court confirmed.
“I receive with joy these results, which are the will of the majority of the Panamanian people in our democracy, which I assume with great responsibility and humility as a Panamanian,” Mulino said during his victory speech.
He originally ran as the vice-presidential candidate of former President Ricardo Martinelli.
After a court sentenced Martinelli to 11 years in prison for money laundering, Mulino moved to the top of the ticket.
Mulino, who is widely seen as having inherited Martinelli’s popular support, thanked the former president in his victory speech.
“To Ricardo Martinelli: my friend, mission accomplished Ricardo.
But Mulino has not said how he would carry out a closure of the jungle to migrants.
Water access also topped voter’s minds during the vote, analysts say.

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The Panamanian electoral court officially recognized José Raúl Mulino, a right-wing former minister of public security, as the “unofficial” winner of the country’s presidential election on Sunday.

Mulino ended up with roughly 34% of the votes cast after more than 90% of the votes were counted. In second place with roughly 25 percent was Ricardo Lombana, his nearest competitor.

Mulino has promised to bring the nation’s economy back to its peak and to combat the high rate of unemployment by implementing a plan to use public funds to encourage private hiring.

Previously a leader in the region for GDP, this 4 point 4 million-person nation in Central America now stands at the intersection of trade, migration, and international commerce. Despite this, it faces a number of urgent problems, including high rates of unemployment and inflation, corruption, and access to clean water.

“I accept these outcomes with delight, as they represent the will of the majority of Panamanian citizens in our democracy, which I take with great responsibility and humility as a Panamanian,” Mulino declared in his victory speech.

Initially, he was former President Ricardo Martinelli’s vice presidential nominee. Mulino ascended to the top of the ticket after a judge sentenced Martinelli to 11 years in prison for money laundering.

Since requesting asylum after his sentencing, Martinelli has taken up residence in the Nicaraguan embassy located in the capital of Panama. By endorsing and supporting his previous vice presidential nominee, the former leader persisted in his involvement in the contest.

In his victory speech, Mulino, who is generally believed to have inherited Martinelli’s popular support, expressed gratitude to the former president.

“To my friend Ricardo Martinelli: well done on the mission. It was my turn, and I accepted it with great humility and responsibility, even though I did not anticipate this situation when you asked me to be vice president,” he said.

The election has been dubbed “the most important since after the US invasion” by political analysts in 1989.

After Mulino assumes power, the nation will be divided, unstable, and full of political unrest.

The IMF predicts GDP growth of only 2.5 percent this year, down from 7.3 percent last year, indicating a sharp slowdown in Panama’s economy in recent years. Due to “fiscal and governance challenges” following the closure of the nation’s largest mine last year, credit agency Fitch downgraded Panama’s rating to junk status in March.

Mulino has further declared his intention to close the Darién Gap, the perilous jungle beginning in Panama that has developed into a major route for migrants heading to the United States.

The Panamanian government reports that in 2023, over 500,000 migrants—mostly from Venezuela—passed through the Darién Gap, more than doubling the number that was registered in 2022.

In an effort to close the route, the US has been collaborating with authorities in Panama and Colombia, where the jungle ends, for months. Mulino, though, has not stated how he plans to keep migrants out of the jungle.

According to analysts, voters’ top concerns during the election were access to water. El Nino-exacerbated droughts have reduced the capacity of the Panama Canal, which is essential to the nation’s economy, and made access to drinkable water scarce in some areas.

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