Blandón and Méndez secure their spots
on a crowded 2019 presidential ballot
note and captions by Eric Jackson, photos from the candidates’ Twitter feeds
The two primaries held on October 28 turned out more or less as expected. Saúl Méndez, leader of the SUNTRACS construction workers’ union, swept the presidential primary of the leftist Frente Amplio por la Democracia (Broad Front for Democracy, or FAD). Panama City Mayor José Isabel Blandón was slightly less of a consensus candidate but still beat his closest opponent by nearly 20 points.
Blandón now heads a major party ticket, but it’s the party of President Varela and Panamanian voters have this notorious habit of throwing any party that holds the presidency out of office in the next election. FAD is a minor party, but unlike the other small parties stands for certain things other than making deals to get government jobs and contracts for their members. The last time around FAD didn’t get enough votes to maintain its ballot status but this time there is not as big of a split on the left and the charismatic Méndez will look to grow the party into a force with which to be reckoned.
The Panameñistas chose candidates for other offices along with their presidential nominee, while FAD leaders will have a convention to do that at a later date.
All the results are yet to come in, but the Panameñistas have chosen legislator Adolfo “Beby” Valderrama as their candidate for mayor in the capital. They also resoundingly retired their scandal-tainted incumbent deputy from La Chorrrera, Gabriel “Panky” Soto, by a nearly 2-1 margin. There is going to be a crowded race for Panama City mayor. Valderrama will have to overcome a stigma that has so tainted the entire National Assembly that many voters are vowing not to vote for any of its members, no matter which post they seek.
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