Panamanians, enjoying one of the fastest growing economies in the hemisphere but wary of corruption and growing executive power, rejected the governing party’s choice for president Sunday — on a ticket with the president’s wife for vice president — and instead hewed to tradition by electing an opposition candidate. Panama’s election commission declared the president-elect to be Juan Carlos Varela, who is vice president but broke with the governing party in a rancorous falling out and was stripped of many of his duties. He captured 39 percent of the vote, with more than three-quarters of the ballots counted.
Mr. Varela, 50, an engineer and well-known politico whose family owns the country’s biggest liquor producer, was seven points ahead of the 32 percent won by the governing party candidate, José Domingo Arias, a former housing minister and a political newcomer. A third major candidate, Juan Carlos Navarro, a former two-time mayor of Panama City, had 28 percent. “Today democracy won, today Panama won,” Mr. Varela told cheering supporters at a Panama City hotel, later adding, “We will not tolerate corruption in any way.”
Mr. Varela’s victory was a rebuke to President Ricardo Martinelli, who oversaw years of rapid growth and defied electoral law by campaigning openly for Mr. Arias on a ticket that included his wife, Marta Linares de Martinelli, as the vice-presidential candidate. Opponents seized on the move as a thinly veiled attempt to hold on to and concentrate power.
Full Article: Incumbent’s Party Loses Presidency in Panama – NYTimes.com.