The electoral body of Panama warned on Wednesday that the time to organize a consultation on constitutional reforms in parallel to the general elections in May is over, as intended by the Executive.
The president of the Electoral Tribunal, Heriberto Araúz, said that it is "humanly impossible" for the electoral body to organize the referendum because there are less than three months left for the elections on May 5, in which Panama will renew all positions of popular election, among them those of president and vice president.
"Now times do not give us that chance", Araúz insisted in statements to journalists, and explained that Panamanian laws stipulate a minimum of three months and a maximum of six to organize such a consultation.
The Panamanian government presented a bill to include a new ballot in the May elections in mid-January, in the opposition-majority parliament, a proposal that has been labeled as "opportunistic" by the opposition because it was presented so close to the end of the legislature.
According to the legislative proposal, the ballot would pose two questions to the public: one on whether the people want a transformation to the Constitution and another if they want these changes to be through a Parallel Constituent.
The constitutional reform was one of the main electoral promises of the Panamanian president, Juan Carlos Varela, who has assured on several occasions that he relegated the issue to focus on the fight against corruption.
The Commission of Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs of the Parliament, of 71 deputies, opened a period of consultations between civil society on January 29 to see if it accepted the bill, but little progress has been made in that process.
The Panamanian Constitution, which was drafted in 1972 during the military dictatorship and has been amended several times since, establishes in Article 314 that the Constituent Assembly must be convened by the Electoral Court at the request of Parliament or after a popular consultation.