Panama. According to Countryaah.com, Panama population in 2020 is estimated at 4,314,778. Vice President Juan Carlos Varela of the Panamist Party (PPA) unexpectedly won the May 4 presidential election. So far, everything had pointed to a settlement between José Domingo Arias of the Democratic Change (CD) government party and Juan Carlos Navarro of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), although margins were small. It was the first time since the return to democracy in 1990 that a party in office gained the confidence two consecutive elections to lead the country. Varela’s victory was also convincing: he received 39% of the votes cast, against 31% for Arias and 28% for Navarro, and turnout was unusually high, 77%.
Thus, President Ricardo Martinelli’s party CD suffered a defeat which was unexpected as he was an unusually popular president and Panama’s economy during his entire term grew most rapidly throughout Latin America, with between 8 and 11% per annum. But the electorate distrusted Arias and apparently also took an impression of Martinelli’s way of responding to the many strikes and protests that characterized the beginning of the year and instead elected his vice president, with whom Martinelli did not draw really evenly. That Martinelli’s wife, María Linares, was running for Vice President, along with Arias, did not make his case any easier.
International judges pointed out the functionality, corruption and crime of public institutions as the new president’s greatest challenges.
In the congressional elections held at the same time as the presidential election, the opposition won its own majority, and Varela’s own coalition of small parties got only 12 out of 71 seats. However, the PPA and PRD agreed on cooperation just before the takeover of power. At his installation in office on 1 July, Varela himself declared that he will continue Martinelli’s policy in most areas of society.
The elections were preceded by extensive protests and strikes. Among other things, teachers and construction workers strike, and on April 25, the police forcibly suspended a large group of Native American activists who occupied a river bank on the Tabasará River in the Chiriquí province in protest of the construction of a hydroelectric plant. The activists claimed traditional rights to the land and protested that they had not been consulted about the plans.
In August, the centenary was celebrated by the opening of the Panama Canal. By then, almost 78% of the already planned expansion of the channel was completed and was expected to be implemented in 2016. Plans for further expansion were presented at the same time.