Panama City, May 6 (EFE).- Opposition candidate Laurentino Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) won the presidential elections in Panama on Sunday with 33 percent after over 92 percent of the votes had been counted, the Electoral Tribunal announced.
Cortizo won by a narrow margin against Democratic Change (CD) candidate Romulo Roux, who obtained 31 percent of the votes amid the CD’s claims of irregularities.
Around Sunday midnight, the presiding magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal, Heriberto Arauz, made the customary phone call to Cortizo announcing him as the provisional winner. He is will serve as president for the period 2019-2024, according to the unofficial results.
“The announcement of the official result will be sent in the coming days to the National Board of Scrutiny, which will then hold a formal proclamation ceremony to be held on Thursday at the Atlapa Convention Centre” in Panama City, Arauz added.
Cortizo, 66, who is known for his hardline approach towards corruption and economic recovery, responded that he humbly accepted the results announced by the magistrate.
“I am ready with a team to assume the reins of this country … I have absolutely no doubt that the country needs to join forces to be able to resolve the great challenges that we will be encountering as of July 1,” he said, referring the date on which he will be assume the country’s presidency.
Seven presidential candidates – four from political parties and three independents – contested an election where the difference in votes for Cortizo and Roux was fewer than 40,000.
Amid Roux’s allegations of irregularities – a claim that was denied by the electoral magistrates – the Tribunal postponed the announcement of the winner until the difference in votes yet to be counted did not affect the outcome between the first and second place candidates.
It’s been “an intense election (…) which, in the end, regardless of how many votes, in my case a difference of about 40,000 votes, will always have a winner,” Cortizo said.
Independent candidate Ricardo Lombana is in third place with 19.5 percent of the votes, a historic increase for independent movements, while Jose Bandon, of the governing Panameñista Party with 10.28 percent is in fourth position.
Some 2.7 million people were eligible to vote to elect the president, vice-president, National Assembly and Central American Parliament members and mayors, among other officials.