Panama’s presidential election has been won by one of the country’s wealthiest men. The conservative opposition candidate, Ricardo Martinelli, who made millions from a chain of supermarkets, took more than 60 percent of the vote. His platform of fighting corruption and being tough on crime struck a chord with the electorate. Analysts also point to his business experience as significant with voters worried about the global recession.
His rival, Balbina Herrera of the ruling centre-left Revolutionary Democratic Party, polled just over 36 percent. Although the loser, her party may well have made a stronger showing in the parallel parliamentary vote for Panama’s Congress. The global economic down turn has significantly hit trade through Panama’s famous canal as the financial crisis has hit credit and shipping. With a projected GDP growth slowing to three percent for this year, both candidates pledged huge infrastructure projects to inject some life into the economy and promised to push ahead with an ambitious €5bn expansion of the canal.