Voter anger over widespread corruption dominates Panama presidential elections

Voter anger over widespread corruption dominates Panama presidential elections

Anger over widespread political and corporate corruption has become the biggest issue for voters as Panama holds general elections today.

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Photo: Reuters

Anger over widespread political and corporate corruption has become the biggest issue for voters as Panama holds general elections today.

The country’s 2.7 million voters are expected to punish the ruling Panamenista Party with an electoral wipe out despite all three major parties, including Panamenista, making anti-corruption their central issue. Panamenista, the Democratic Revolutionary Party and the Democratic Change Party have all promised to overhaul government transparency and donations and expand existing investigations.

Front-runner Laurentino Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, who is leading by over twenty points, has pledged to ensure that not even government ministers and business leaders are immune from the consequences of corrupt actions. However like most pledges, all candidates are short on specifics.

Panama has voted out the ruling party in every election since its return to democracy in 1989, but this time it underscores popular anger in one of the region’s most unequal country’s two years after the release of the Panama Papers. Current President Juan Carlos Varela has been swept up in the Panama revelations over a bribery scheme involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has also ensnared eleven other countries.

As with past elections in the country, the frontrunner party is expected to be given a sweeping mandate by voters, but despite the intense anger over the issue of corruption and campaign pledges, expect little to change in the medium-term.

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