Panama president’s deputy-turned-rival takes early election lead

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Residents prepare their ballots in voting booths during the presidential election at a polling station in Panama CityBy Christine Murray and Elida Moreno PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama’s vice-president, running as an opposition candidate, took an early lead in Sunday’s presidential election after a campaign in which he took credit for outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli’s policies but vowed cleaner government. Juan Carlos Varela of the center-right Panamenista Party (PP) helped Martinelli get elected in 2009 but later fell out with him and has vowed to cut the cost of living and reduce poverty. Varela had 38.87 percent support with votes counted from around 25.7 percent of polling booths, Panama’s election authority said. Ruling party contender Jose Domingo Arias had 31.86 percent, while left-leaning former Panama City mayor Juan Carlos Navarro of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) had 27.97 percent.

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