Conservative multimillionaire Ricardo Martinelli was declared winner of Panama's presidential election with 43.68 per cent of the votes counted, the National Electoral Board has said.
The board's chairman, Erasmo Pinilla, telephoned Martinelli, of the Alliance for Change, to give him word.
"We are calling to announce to you that in accordance with the unofficial data the Electoral Board has, with 43.68 per cent of the ballots counted, the board deems you to be the undisputed winner of the presidential race," Pinilla told Martinelli yesterday.
Martinelli, 57, a gregarious businessman with a broad smile and shock of white hair, leads a business empire including supermarkets, banks and agricultural firms.
He had led going into the vote according to polls, despite government backing for his rival, social democrat Balbina Herrera, a one-time leftist firebrand.