Laurentino Cortizo, a veteran politician and former agriculture minister, narrowly won Panama’s presidential election earlier this month. Cortizo had focused his campaign on cleaning up the Central American nation’s image after a series of high-profile corruption scandals. But given the entrenched patronage networks and weak institutions of accountability in Panama, he will have a hard time following through on that promise, says Orlando J. Pérez, an expert on Latin American politics at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. In an email interview with WPR, he discusses the election results and what to expect from the new administration.
World Politics Review: How did Cortizo prevail in the presidential election, and how will his slim margin of victory affect his ability to get things done as president?
Orlando J. Pérez: Cortizo was able to mobilize base voters from his Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, which normally comprises about a third of the electorate. In a fragmented field of candidates, a plurality of 33 percent was enough to win, as Panama’s electoral system does not allow for a runoff vote.