He’s a businessman right? How is he faring politically?
Although President Martinelli is a businessman by trade, this is definitely not his first political stint: he was Panama’s Director of Social Security (1994-96), both Minister for Canal Affairs and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Panama Canal under President Mireya Moscoso (1999-2003), and the president of the country’s Democratic Change party, a fairly new political party founded in 1998. He also ran for the presidency in 2004, but came in with only about 5% of the vote. He came back stronger in 2009, promising the Panamanian people he would crack down on violent crime. On top of all that, he’s quite the philanthropist. As the founder of “The Ricardo Martinelli Foundation” President Martinelli gives over 8000 scholarships annually. The scholarships are granted to lower-income children with high scholastic achievement.
Do they hold democratic elections in Panama? And is it a president or a prime minister?
Panama is indeed a democratic republic, with a president elected by popular vote, unlike the US’s electoral college system. The Panamanian president is both head of state and head of government. The president is elected for a five-year term, and can’t serve two consecutive terms; rather he/she must wait at least two terms, before running for re-election. Panama is also one of the few democracies in the world to have elected a woman president (Mireya Moscosa, 1999-2004).
And when did he assume office?
Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal, is the 49th President of the Republic of Panama. President Martinelli, 57, is a Panamanian businessman who made his fortune with one of the country’s biggest supermarket chains, Panama’s Super 99. He chairs two other companies and is a board member on another eight. President Martinelli assumed the presidential office July 1, 2009 and is set to serve a five-year term. On a personal level, President Martinelli was born in Panama City, educated at the University of Arkansas, in the United States, and is married with three children.
I heard it was by a landslide, does anyone know how close it actually was?
President Martinelli easily beat out Balbina Herrera in the 2009 elections, getting more than 60% of the votes cast, compared to her 36%—it was the biggest margin since the late ‘80s. It is estimated President Martinelli’s presidential campaign cost about $35 million. After winning the election, President Martinelli said he would defend an “economía libre” (free economy), including trade agreements with the United States, making Panama “el mejor lugar de Latinoamérica para hacer negocios” (the best Latin American country in which to do business).