PANAMA CITY, April 14 Panama's ruling party
presidential candidate and an opposition challenger are in a
dead heat ahead of the Central American country's May 4 vote, a
poll showed on Monday.
Jose Arias, from the ruling Democratic Change (CD)party, and
Juan Navarro, from the moderate left opposition Democratic
Revolution Party (PRD), both won 32 percent support in a poll by
Ipsos and Canal 13.
The country's current vice president, Juan Varela, took 26
percent in the poll. Varela broke with current President Ricardo
Martinelli and ran on the ticket of the Panamenista Party.
The poll surveyed 1,374 of the country's roughly 2 million
voters, but its margin of error was not disclosed.
Martinelli is prohibited by the constitution from running
for a second five-year term as president.
Panama's next president will need to maintain the country's
strong growth rates, the highest in Central America, and
complete an expansion of the Panama Canal, which was disrupted
by a dispute over massive cost overruns between the canal's
authority and an international consortium of builders.
The two sides finally inked a deal in mid-March to finish
construction by December 2015.
An aggressive government infrastructure program helped boost
Panama's largely services-based economy to double-digit growth
in 2011 and 2012, but the pace cooled to 8.4 percent in 2013 and
is seen at 7 percent this year and next.
(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)