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Panamanian Opposition Leader Juan Carlos Varela Wins Elections

LADB Article ID: 79304
Category/Department: Panama..
Date: 2014-05-15
By: Louisa Reynolds

On May 4, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela won the presidential election with 39% of the votes, compared with 32% for economist José Domingo Arias of Cambio Democrático (CD) and 28% for Panama City’s former mayor Juan Carlos Navarro. It was one of the toughest-fought elections since democratic rule was restored two decades ago. After his unexpected victory, regarded as a rebuke to President Ricardo Martinelli’s attempt to extend his grip on power, Varela struck a conciliatory note, saying it was time "to put the party banners away and to govern under one flag, that of Panama." His party only got 11 of the 71 seats in Congress, which means that, after his swearing in on July 1, Varela will have to form alliances with the opposition to push his planned reforms through Congress. Varela will face the challenge of maintaining the impressive economic growth achieved under the Martinelli administration while reducing economic inequality, as one-quarter of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.

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