Voters to choose president after front-runner sentenced

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The upcoming presidential election in Panama has been full of twists and turns. Originally, ex-President Ricardo Martinelli was expected to win, but he was disqualified due to a money laundering conviction. José Raúl Mulino, who was Mr. Martinelli’s running mate, stepped in and is now leading in the polls.

The election will determine the next president, with eight candidates in the running. Voters will also choose members of Panama’s national assembly. Since presidents can’t serve two terms in a row, the current president, Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, isn’t running for re-election.

José Raúl Mulino, from the Realizando Metas (Achieving Goals) party, has the support of Ricardo Martinelli, who is currently in the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama City. Mr. Mulino has promised to “close down” the Darién Gap, a dangerous jungle area on Panama’s border with Colombia that migrants often cross on their way to the United States.

Two other well-known candidates are Martín Torrijos, son of former president Omar Torrijos, and Rómulo Roux, a former president of the Panama Canal’s board of directors. Mr. Torrijos is campaigning under the slogan “Safe Change” and promises investment in the Panama Canal. Mr. Roux is focused on job creation and improving public services.

Ricardo Lombana, another candidate, ran as an independent in 2019 and is now standing for the Other Way Movement. He disagrees with Mr. Mulino’s plan to close the Darién Gap and instead wants to improve security for migrants.

The other four candidates in the race are José Gabriel Carrizo, Zulay Rodríguez, Melitón Arrocha, and Maribel Gordón.

Polls open at 07:00 local time (12:00 GMT) and close nine hours later. Preliminary results are expected soon after the polls close.

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