Factbox-Who are the frontrunners in Panama's Sunday presidential election

Combination Picture of Panama's Presidential candidates

By Valentine Hilaire and Elida Moreno

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panamanians will elect a new president on Sunday, with eight candidates set to appear on the ballot, and polls showing mixed rankings among the five frontrunners.

The result will be final, as Panama's electoral rules do not require a runoff. Outgoing President Laurentino Cortizo took office with only a two-percentage-point advantage in the last election.

Here are the frontrunners' profiles:

JOSE RAUL MULINO

Lawyer Jose Raul Mulino was the last candidate to join the race, replacing former President - and front runner - Ricardo Martinelli in March after he was banned from running due to a nearly 11-year sentence for money laundering.

The latest surveys show Mulino has inherited his former running mate's popularity. Martinelli has used social media to back Mulino from the Nicaraguan embassy, where he has been living since early February, when he was granted asylum.

Nonetheless, 64-year-old Mulino's candidacy could still be voided, as the country's top court is considering a challenge against it. He has argued the move is politically motivated.

Mulino served as deputy foreign minister in the 1990s, and as both interior and security minister during Martinelli's administration (2009-2014).

Mulino's platform calls for "bringing more money to Panamanians' pockets" through an array of infrastructure projects aimed at boosting employment and investment.

ROMULO ROUX

Romulo Roux, a 59-year-old lawyer, is running for office for the second time, and most polls have ranked him as the runner-up.

Up until February, he was a partner at law firm Morgan & Morgan, known for representing Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals in the country, though he has said he would let stand a court decision that voided the miner's contract to operate a key copper mine.

Roux, who once headed the authority that governs the Panama Canal, has made tourism and logistics his priorities while pledging to create 500,000 jobs.

MARTIN TORRIJOS

As son of former dictator Omar Torrijos, who persuaded Washington to cede control of the Panama Canal in the 1970s, former President Martin Torrijos also made the waterway the centerpiece of his administration during his own first presidential term (2004-2009), holding a referendum to decide on its expansion.

Torrijos' administration was also responsible for sealing Panama's first free trade agreement with the United States.

He now aims to broaden the canal's operations by making it the country's water resources manager. He would also spend $19 billion on 40 infrastructure projects, creating 165,000 direct jobs.

Polls show a narrow gap between 60-year-old Torrijos and Roux.

RICARDO LOMBANA

In his second presidential run, 50-year-old lawyer Ricardo Lombana has prioritized modernizing institutions and fostering sustainable economic growth.

Lombana acted as consul general at Panama's embassy in the United States during Torrijos' administration.

In January, he announced he has "curable" prostate cancer, and his campaign has suffered a backlash due to remarks opposing same-sex marriage.

JOSE GABRIEL CARRZIO

Panama's 40-year-old current vice president Jose Gabriel Carrizo is seeking to keep his party in power for a second term with promises to raise the minimum wage and build a "dry canal" linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific.

No Panamanian party has held power for consecutive terms since the 1980s and Carrizo's group, the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), has lost over 21,000 members since October, when Panamanians took to the streets to protest against First Quantum's giant copper mine.

His administration also struggled to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and an accompanying inflation spike, which also sparked widespread unrest in the Central American nation.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire and Elida Moreno; Editing by Christian Plumb and Sandra Maler)