Social Democrat Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo won Sunday’s presidential election in Panama, with the electoral court proclaiming him the winner Monday with a little more than two points ahead of his closest opponent, Romulo Roux.
In his victory speech, Cortizo, who won 33.2% of the vote in this one-round poll, called for national unity.
“Panama has won today, and today more than ever, the Panamanians need to join forces,” said the former agriculture minister to his supporters.
Romulo Roux received 31% of the vote, according to the preliminary results communicated by the Electoral Tribunal. The other five candidates share the rest of the votes.
The new president, aged 66, will take office on 1 July and succeed the outgoing, Juan Carlos Varela, who could not run again.
Varela has drawn the wrath of the United States by establishing official diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, the second-largest customer of the Panama Canal, and entrusting several large infrastructure projects to Chinese companies.
The Panamanian economy, fueled in particular by the channel, through which passes each year 270 billion dollars of goods, knows one of the most sustained growth in the world, which arouses the increasing interest of China.
Cortizo promised to deepen relations with Beijing while displaying less eagerness than Juan Carlos Varela.