Panama held a general election on May 3, 2009. The President of Panama, as well as Panama’s legislatures, local councils, and MPs to the Central American Parliament were up for election.
Ricardo Martinelli, the candidate of the right-wing Democratic Change (CD) has bucked the left-wing trend in South and Central America by defeating the candidate of the incumbent left-wing (Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD) government, Balbina Herrera. The PRD; whose candidate Martín Torrijos, the son of Panamanian military dictator Omar Torrijos, won the 2004 election; has been hurt by the global economic crisis and a still-high criminality rate. Martinelli, a wealthy businessman and owner of a successful supermarket chain in Panama, exploited popular discontent and rode to victory on the back of support from Panama’s least well-off. His candidacy was supported by his party, but also the Panameñista Party (PAN), and the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA). Balbina Herrera, a PRD cabinet minister, was originally anti-American, in fact she participated in anti-American protests following the US 1989 invasion which removed military dictator and drug dealer Manuel Noriega. She has downplayed these links to Noriega. Herrera was supported by the People’s Party (PP), a Christiandem party. Guillermo Endara, who was President between 1989 and 1994, also ran for his newly-formed Fatherland’s Moral Vanguard Party (VMP), formed by a split in the Panameñista Party.
Results for President:
Ricardo Martinelli (CD) 60.11%
Balbina Herrera (PRD) 37.54%
Guillermo Endara (VMP) 2.35%
Martinelli did best in Panama City, and probably the poor rural areas west of Panama City. His only defeats came from the comarcas of Panama, that is, provinces with a substantial native Amerindian population.
For the legislature:
PAN 24.58% winning 19 seats (+2)
CD 23.15% winning 12 seats (+9)
Patriotic Union 6.38% winning 4 seats (new)
MOLIRENA 3.44% winning 2 seats (-1)
Alliance for Change 57.54% winning 32 seats
PRD 34.68% winning 21 seats (-20)
PP 2.46% winning 1 seat (±0)
A Country for All 38.07% winning 22 seats
VMP 1.74% winning 1 seat (new)
Independents 2.65% winning 2 seats