In the general election on May 5, 2019, with just a third of the vote, the Partido Revolucionario Democrático won control of the presidency, the National Assembly, and the majority of municipal councils and boards. In the very close presidential election, Laurentino Cortizo was the winner and gained a legislative majority by joining forces with the smaller MOLINERA party.

Panama’s economic transformation remains stuck in its long-learned pattern of economic growth. The country saw an extremely steep downturn in economic growth due to the coronavirus crisis, as GDP dropped by 17.9%, unemployment rose to 18.5%, informal activities increased significantly, and debt levels increased dramatically.

COVID-19 has dealt a big blow to society. Official figures for contagion and death are several times higher than global averages. In response to the pandemic, the government restricted basic rights without constitutional procedure. Their implementation at the hands of Panama’s increasingly militarized security services has been arbitrary and dismissive of elementary human rights. Civil society organizations protested increasingly forcefully, riding a wave of growing citizen frustration with mismanagement and rising corruption.

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