TODAY PANAMA – JUAN CARLOS VARELA leader of the Panameñista Party, who trailed in third place in the polls throughout the election campaign, and was the target of many personal attacks, and smears, was elected as the next president of Panama on Sunday May 4.
President Ricardo Martinelli whose wife Marta was the running mate of CD candidate, Jose Domingo Arias, did not accept defeat gracefully, saying in a speech to shocked supporters that the election was unfair as all the opposition parties attacked the CD. He accepted Varela’s victory, but declined to congratulate him.
The CD campaign was widely believed in Panama and in opinion forming publications around the world, to be an attempt by Martinelli to continue to hold the reins of power with his wife as Vice President and Arias as a tame mouthpiece, before making a new bid for the presidency in five years’ time.
Varela, a 50-year-old engineer is the current vice-president of the Panameñista party, a center-right organization which had an alliance with the Christian-based Partido Popular (PP).
The CD campaign became the focus of accusations of dirty tricks master minded by soon to be gone Tourism chief Salomon Shamah. The party was also attacked for using government funds for the campaign, and President Martinelli was condemned for “campaigning” for Arias, and appointing his wife as a vice-presidential candidate while she still served as th country’s First Lady.