Panama’s politics take decisive turn to the left as PRD candidate leads polls ahead of 5 May vote

Polls suggest that Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo could lead the country’s biggest party, the left-leaning Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), back to power. Running on a platform focused on combatting poverty and reducing social inequality, Cortizo, has consistently placed first in electoral polls since March, outpacing Rómulo Roux, successor to former President Ricardo Martinelli as leader of the Cambio Democratico (CD) party, by double digits. It is noteworthy that the right-wing ruling party, El Panameñista’s candidate, Jose Isabel Blandon, is trailing in fourth place, with only 8.2% of predicted votes in the latest survey. Following the 2016 Panama Papers leak and 2018 electoral reforms, corruption remains a core issue for the electorate, and could drive down turnout among disillusioned youth who make up 30% of the 2.7m registered voters. In addition to calls for a new constitution, six of the seven candidates in the race, have committed to adopting anti-corruption measures if voted into power, and have signed a pact put forward by Transparency International. On 5 May, Panama will also elect the 71 deputies of its unicameral legislature, 20 representatives for the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), 81 mayors, and close to 700 local representatives and councillors.

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