Panamanians vote for a new president on Sunday in the closest contest in a generation with opponents of President Ricardo Martinelli seeking to thwart the business tycoon\’s attempt to maintain an indirect grip on power.
Most pre-election polls indicate the top three candidates are within just a few points of each other in the election to replace President Ricardo Martinelli.
The president\’s choice for his replacement is Housing Minister Jose Domingo Arias of the ruling CD party. Opponents view Arias as a proxy for Mr. Martinelli. Arias\’ running mate is the president\’s wife.
No incumbent party has won re-election in Panama since the U.S. invasion in 1989 to oust military strongman Manuel Noriega.
The two other main presidential contenders are former Panama City mayor Juan Carlos Navarro and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, the scion of one of Panama\’s richest families.
Panama is a banking and trading hub that is best known for the canal that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The new president will inherit oversight of a major expansion of the Panama Canal.
President Martinelli, a supermarket tycoon, recently inaugurated the first metro in Central America in Panama City.