‘Crazies’ have it: Panama elects supermarket magnate Martinelli president

May 1, 2009

PANAMA CITY, Panama – A white-haired conservative businessman was declared president just two hours after the polls closed in elections held here Sunday.

With a little more than 43 percent of the votes counted, Panama´s Elections Tribunal surprised few by pronouncing Ricardo Martinelli, of the Democratic Change party, the victor.

Martinelli had been leading for a year in the polls over his opponent, Balbina Herrera of the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), by double digits since December.

Known as “El Loco ” or “The Crazy One,” Martinelli is the owner of Panama´s

Super99 supermarket chain and the former president of the Panama Canal Port Authority. Often considered uncharismatic, Martinelli earned his nickname after an e-mail was passed around alleging he suffers from bi-polar disorder. After denying the allegations, his campaign launched a new slogan – “we crazies are the majority” – that quickly took hold among his supporters countrywide.

Martinelli has promised to build a metro system for the capital as well as lower food and electricity costs and improve security.

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