Juan Carlos Varela wins 2014 Presidential Election
Juan Carlos Varela will be the next President of Panama. It was a surprise victory. Given the high approval rating of outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli, it was expected that his hand-picked successor would triumph. However, since the days of Noreiga in the 80’s, the sitting party has never repeated in a presidential election. Democracy is strong in Panama and it is notable that all of the presidential candidates for the three major political parties touted similar pro-business and pro-development platforms. Also of note is that while Martinelli’s party had a majority in the legislature during Martinelli’s tenure, Varela’s party has only a small number of seats. New legislation will now require negotiations with one of the other two major parties. Varela is a businessman. Expect Panama to remain on course with continued pro-business inclinations, fewer legislative changes and ongoing rapid growth rates through this new administration.
Excepts of election results coverage from some news outlets:
Outsider Juan Carlos Varela wins Panama election
Opposition leader Juan Carlos Varela has won the presidential election in Panama with almost 40% of the votes.
Mr Varela, who is currently the vice-president, had distanced himself from outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli.
Correspondents say Mr Varela has taken credit for Mr Martinelli’s economic success, but has promised a cleaner, more transparent government.
The president’s preferred candidate, the governing party contender Jose Domingo Arias, came second.
‘May God help us’
President Martinelli had actively supported the campaign of Mr Arias, 50, and the leader’s wife Marta Linares was the candidate’s running mate.
Critics said his support for the Arias-Linares team was an attempt by Mr Martinelli to hold on to the reins of power.
Under the Panamanian constitution, presidents are obliged to step down after one term and are banned from running for the two following terms.
Outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli did not hide his disappointment at his preferred candidate’s loss
Mr Varela, a former centre-right ally of Mr Martinelli, fell out with the president after he was dismissed from his post as foreign minister in 2011.
After he had achieved an unassailable lead in the poll, Mr Varela, 50, told Reuters news agency that “better times are on their way”.
More at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27280811
Panama election: Juan Carlos Varela thwarts rival by winning presidency
Vice-president declared the victor with 60% of votes counted, seeing off attempt by outgoing leader to hand-pick successor
Panama’s vice-president Juan Carlos Varela was declared the victor of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, thwarting an attempt by former ally and incumbent Ricardo Martinelli to extend his grip on power by electing a hand-picked successor.
With 60% of ballots counted, officials said Varela led with 39% of the votes, compared to 32% for former housing minister Jose Domingo Arias, the preferred choice of Martinelli. Juan Carlos Navarro, a former mayor of the capital, was running third in the seven-candidate field with 27%.
Varela, who takes office July 1, dedicated his victory to Panama’s democracy when the electoral tribunal’s chief magistrate notified him by telephone of his victory.
The ruling party has still never won re-election to Panama’s presidency since the United States’ 1989 overthrow of military strongman Manuel Noriega.
Election day began with opinion polls pointing to a tight race among the top three candidates, but none of the major surveys had Varela with a lead. Most gave a razor-thin edge to Arias.
Although Martinelli was not on the ballot, the billionaire supermarket magnate’s presence loomed large during the campaign with many worried that he would be the power behind the throne if voters chose Arias, a soft-spoken newcomer.
As the race narrowed in recent weeks, Martinelli crisscrossed the isthmus inaugurating hospitals, stadiums and central America’s first subway while warning the nation’s 3.2m people that record-low unemployment and economic growth averaging more than 8% since he took office in 2009 could be jeopardised if his opponents won.
His high-profile campaigning drew widespread criticism, as did his decision to place his wife, Marta Linares, as Arias’ running mate on the Democratic Center ticket.
Varela, a 50-year-old engineer, is the scion of one of Panama’s richest families and owner of a namesake rum distillery. He left the 2009 presidential race to throw his conservative Panamenista party’s support behind Martinelli in exchange for the vice presidency.
But the political marriage did not last, and Martinelli dismissed him from an additional role as foreign minister in 2011 for refusing to back a plan for a referendum to allow president’s to serve consecutive terms.
More at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/05/panama-election-juan-carlos-varela-thwarts-rival-by-winning-presidency
Varela Wins Panama’s Presidency After Ruling Party Feud
Vice President Juan Carlos Varela upended pre-election polls showing him lagging behind to win the country’s presidential election, after publicly feuding with the ruling party over allegations of corruption.
Varela, 50, was declared the winner by the national electoral tribunal yesterday, which said his lead in the race was insurmountable. With 93 percent of the precincts counted, Varela had 39 percent. Former Housing Minister Jose Domingo Arias, who led in pre-election polls and had the backing of President Ricardo Martinelli, was second with 32 percent and conceded the race. Ex-Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro was third with 28 percent.
“This government is going to fight against inequality and is not going to tolerate corruption,” Varela told supporters at a hotel in Panama City after being declared the winner. “Better days will come to Panama, with a government that is human, decent and visionary.”
Varela will succeed Martinelli, who helped oversee the Panama Canal’s $5.25 billion expansion, opened Central America’s first subway and pushed unemployment to a record low 4.1 per cent, on July 1. With voters saying inflation was their top concern, Varela advocated price controls on basic foods and said he would be more open to talks with unions and indigenous groups, who have battled with Martinelli over mining and hydroelectric projects.
“Varela closed the campaign with a lot of momentum,” said Risa Grais-Targow, a Latin America analyst at Eurasia Group in New York. “He was able to beat the Martinelli machine due to voter perception that an Arias victory would be a de facto Martinelli re-election.”
Martinelli congratulated Varela for his “overwhelming victory” on his Twitter account. His Democratic Change party still won the most seats in the 71-member National Assembly, with 30 lawmakers compared with 12 aligned with Varela, according to preliminary estimates by the electoral tribunal.
A father of three, Varela received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and served on the board of his family’s company, Grupo Varela, whose investments include a brand of Panamanian rum.”
More at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-05/varela-leads-panama-presidential-vote-with-36-counted.html
New York Times
Incumbent’s Party Loses Presidency in Panama
Panamanians, enjoying one of the fastest-growing economies in the hemisphere but wary of corruption and growing executive power, rejected the governing party’s choice for president on Sunday — on a ticket with the president’s wife for vice president — and instead hewed to tradition by electing an opposition candidate.
Panama’s election commission declared the president-elect to be Juan Carlos Varela, who is vice president but broke with the governing party in a rancorous falling-out and was stripped of many of his duties. He captured 39 percent of the vote, with more than three-quarters of the ballots counted.
Mr. Varela, 50, an engineer and well-known politician whose family owns the country’s biggest liquor producer, was seven points ahead of the 32 percent won by the governing party candidate, , Jose Domingo Arias, a former housing minister and a political newcomer. A third major candidate, Juan Carlos Navarro, a former two-time mayor of Panama City, had 28 percent.
More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/05/world/americas/panama-elections.html?_r=0
US adviser helps candidate win Panama presidency
It was billed as a battle royal between Latin America’s top two spin doctors. In one corner, the campaign guru to such towering leftist leaders as Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. In the other, a strategist likened to Karl Rove who is credited with helping return the Institutional Revolutionary Party to power in Mexico after a 12-year-absence.
So how did these high-paid rainmakers get trounced in Panama’s recently concluded presidential race by a candidate advised by an unknown American strategist who barely speaks Spanish?
Old fashioned perseverance may have made the difference.
With limited knowledge of Panama’s political culture, Christian Ferry spent most of the past six months in the country designing speeches, organizing grassroots supporters and buying TV ads as chief strategist to Vice President Juan Carlos Varela’s campaign. After trailing in the major polls, Varela jumped past his two rivals to win the May 4 vote convincingly.
The victory was more remarkable because Varela’s choice of Ferry flies in the face of a recent trend among Latin America campaigns to shun carpetbagger consultants from the U.S. and rely on regional talent more attuned to local nuances. Varela’s better-funded opponents hired the region’s most sought-after strategists: Joao Santana and J.J. Rendon.
Washington Post link no longer available.