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Former Security Minister Mulino Wins Panama’s Presidential Election With Backing From Ex-Leader Martinelli

Jose Raul Mulino has won Panama’s presidential poll after receiving support from convicted ex-president Ricardo Martinelli.

Presidential candidate Jose Raul Mulino, of the Achieving Goals party, celebrates after winning on the day of the general electing in Panama City, Sunday, May 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

Panama’s former security minister, Jose Raul Mulino, emerged victorious in the country’s presidential election on Sunday, propelled to success by the backing of his former boss, popular ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, who remains sheltered in Nicaragua’s embassy.

Mulino, aged 64, clinched the presidency after stepping in to replace Martinelli on the ballot when the former leader was barred from running due to a money laundering conviction. Celebrating his win, Mulino addressed supporters with jubilation, declaring “Mission accomplished, damn it,” and expressing gratitude to Martinelli for his support.

Promising a pro-investment and pro-business government, Mulino pledged to prioritise the interests of both the economy and the underprivileged in Panama. He emphasised the importance of national unity and vowed to honour the country’s financial obligations while addressing the needs of the less fortunate.

His victory comes amid an unconventional election campaign marked by Martinelli’s active involvement from Nicaragua’s embassy in Panama City, where he sought asylum. Despite accusations from opponents that Mulino was a mere puppet of Martinelli, many voters viewed him as a proxy for the former president.

Nicaragua granted asylum to Martinelli, but Panamanian authorities have prevented him from leaving the country. Mulino visited Martinelli at the embassy following his electoral triumph, symbolising their enduring alliance.

With over 90% of the total votes counted, Mulino secured approximately 34% of the ballots, cementing his victory. His closest rival, Ricardo Lombana, conceded defeat and congratulated Mulino on his success.

Mulino’s agenda for Panama includes ambitious plans for infrastructure development and a commitment to increasing the minimum wage. He has also suggested that his administration will prioritise stability and prosperity for the country.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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