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HomeTopicsLatin AmericaPanamanian Elections: Mulino Leads, but Voters Believe Martinelli Will Hold Power

Panamanian Elections: Mulino Leads, but Voters Believe Martinelli Will Hold Power

A recent poll conducted by the firm Doxa for the Panamanian Institute of Civic Studies and the radio station ArCa Media En Directo has revealed that a significant majority of Panamanians believe that former President Ricardo Martinelli will be the true power behind the scenes if opposition candidate José Raúl Mulino emerges victorious in the upcoming May 5 elections.

The survey, which was released on Monday, shed light on the public’s perception of Martinelli’s influence, despite his current asylum status in the Nicaraguan embassy and his efforts to avoid a prison sentence.

When asked the question, “In case Mulino wins the elections, who do you think will really be in charge in Panama?” a staggering 65% of respondents named Martinelli as the person who would genuinely govern the country from the shadows. This sentiment prevails even though Mulino, who was once Martinelli’s vice-presidential candidate, now leads the race with the highest voting intention at 34%.

The poll also indicated that center-right opposition lawyer Ricardo Lombana and former social-democratic President Martín Torrijos trail behind Mulino, with 15% and 13% of the voting intention, respectively.

Martinelli, who served as Panama’s president from 2009 to 2014, has been disqualified from directly competing in the elections due to a conviction that sentenced him to nearly eleven years in prison for money laundering.

However, this has not deterred the former right-wing governor from seeking asylum in the Nicaraguan embassy two months ago, following the judicial decision against him. From his place of refuge, Martinelli has been actively campaigning on social media in support of his protégé, Mulino.

Despite Mulino’s lead in the polls, he faces a significant legal obstacle. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing a lawsuit against him, challenging his direct appointment as a presidential candidate by Martinelli. The controversy stems from the fact that Mulino did not go through his party’s primaries, which is a requirement stipulated in the electoral code. As of now, there is no announced date for the Court’s decision on this matter.

Interestingly, the poll also revealed that corruption is not a primary concern for Panamanian voters, even though Martinelli has a conviction and faces other legal troubles. Instead, the electorate’s main priorities lie in addressing issues such as unemployment, the rising cost of living, access to clean drinking water, insecurity, and the scarcity of medicines in the social security system.

This suggests that many Panamanians still support Martinelli, possibly due to a nostalgic remembrance of the economic prosperity the country experienced under his leadership.

The Doxa survey, which was conducted between April 4 and 10, involved a sample of 1,200 participants. The results have a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 2.8%, lending credibility to the findings that underscore the complex political dynamics and public sentiment surrounding the upcoming Panamanian elections.

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