Presidential candidate Laurentino Cortizo, with the Democratic Revolutionary Party, waves to supporters in Panama City, Monday, May 6, 2019. Cortizo, a 66-year-old cattleman, holds on to a narrow lead Sunday night as returns came in from Panama's presidential election, which followed a campaign that focused on corruption and slowing economic growth in this Central America trade and financial hub. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

The Latest: Cattle rancher holds onto lead in Panama

May 06, 2019 - 8:30 am

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The Latest on Panama (all times local):

7:20 a.m.

Cattle rancher Laurentino Cortizo is holding on to his narrow lead in Panama's presidential election with the vote count nearing an end.

With 95% of the votes counted, Cortizo has a lead of just over 2 percentage points over businessman Rómulo Roux Monday morning.

Cortizo's lead amounts to nearly 41,000 votes out of almost 2 million votes cast. Panama's Electoral Court expects the national vote-counting board to confirm Cortizo, of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party, as the winner after a final recount of the vote.

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3:15 a.m.

Panama's Electoral Court expects the National Scrutiny Board to confirm the opposition candidate, Laurentino Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, as the winner of the presidential election after a final recount of the vote.

The Electoral Court announced late Sunday that Cortizo was the "virtual winner" of the election with 92% of the ballot boxes counted, after a tight race between the country's two most important rival political forces.

Presidential candidate Rómulo Roux rejected those preliminary results, which put him in second place.

According to the early results, Cortizo won 33% of the votes versus 31% for Roux, who is from former President Ricardo Martinelli's Democratic Change party.

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2:55 a.m.

Presidential candidate Rómulo Roux of Panama has rejected the preliminary results announced by the country's Electoral Court that put him in second place.

The Court declared opposition candidate, Laurentino Cortizo as the "virtual winner" of Sunday's presidential race by a narrow lead of 2 percentage points pending the final recount.

Roux claimed, without offering immediate proof, that his campaign had been hindered by irregularities in the vote.

According to the early results, Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party had won 33% of the votes versus 31% for Roux, who is from former President Ricardo Martinelli's Democratic Change party.

There is no presidential runoff in Panama, so the top vote-getter in the field of seven mostly business-friendly candidates wins outright and takes office July 1 for a five-year term.

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2 a.m.

Panama's Electoral Court has declared opposition candidate Laurentino Cortizo the "virtual winner" in the country's tight presidential election late Sunday.

The vote followed a campaign focused on corruption and slowing economic growth in this Central America trade and financial hub and turned into the tightest presidential contest in recent years.

After scrutinizing the results from 92% of polling stations, electoral court magistrate Heriberto Araúz said in a televised announcement shortly before midnight that Cortizo had a narrow lead of 2 percentage points over businessman Rómulo Roux. The unexpectedly close race pitted the candidates of the country's two most important opposition political forces.

Cortizo, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, had 33% of the votes versus 31% for Roux, from former President Ricardo Martinelli's Democratic Change party. There is no runoff in Panama, so the top vote-getter in the field of seven mostly business-friendly candidates wins outright and takes office July 1 for a five-year term.

Before the magistrate's announcement, Roux vowed not to concede defeat, saying the results were too close and suggesting that the race was marred by irregularities.

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