Concern over 'interference' in Panama vote

2014-05-06 11:06
Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela speaks at a mass in Panama City. (Orlando Sierra, AFP)

Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela speaks at a mass in Panama City. (Orlando Sierra, AFP)

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Panama City - International monitors voiced concern Monday at "interference" by Panama's presidential office in weekend elections.

Conservative Juan Carlos Varela easily defeated President Ricardo Martinelli's hand-picked successor, Jose Domingo Arias, whose runningmate was Martinelli's wife.

Varela, Panama's vice-president and a former Martinelli supporter, won a clear majority - 39% - of the vote, according to the Electoral Tribunal.

"With special concern the (OAS electoral monitoring) mission has witnessed visible interference by the executive branch in the vote, in several ways," Organization of American States monitoring mission spokesperson Lourdes Flores said in reading out a statement.

Martinelli's party's supporters "benefited throughout the campaign by using public funds", she added.

While the OAS mission acknowledged the election was "carried out successfully", it stressed that there were issues "that cannot be ignored, and that need to be addressed urgently".

Government interference, it charged, created "deeply unequal conditions in the race".

And the mission "has witnessed with concern the barely regulated campaign finance area", where there are "no limits on donations and no monitoring of private donations".

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