Panama to hold presidential election in May 2019

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama will hold its next general election on May 5, 2019, the country’s election tribunal announced on Saturday, with voters set to choose a new president, lawmakers and mayors to lead the Central American country for a five-year term.

Roughly 2.7 million Panamanian voters in May next year will elect a replacement for current President Juan Carlos Varela, who is barred from re-election.

On Saturday, the president announced a plan to kick-start a series of popular consultations on constitutional changes ahead of next year’s vote.

Among the changes, announced at the election tribunal event, Varela said he hopes to forge a constitutional assembly that would be elected in the general election, without giving any further details.

Varela’s critics said the unusual move was “irresponsible” just one year before the election.

“This adds uncertainty to the electoral process,” said Romulo Roux, president of the Democratic Change party. “It’s a political measure for (Varela) to maintain his power after 2019.”

The election tribunal said $55.9 million would be destined for the elections, the sixth such vote since Panama’s dictatorship ended.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Leslie Adler