The Executive presented to the Panamanian Parliament a bill to include in the general elections of May 5, 2019, a fifth ballot, which will serve to consult the public if they want to convene a Constituent Assembly, to draft a new Constitution.
The draft Law 001-19, was approved by the Cabinet (Ministers) on January 8, to be presented before the National Assembly (AN, Parliament) of Panama, which has a large opposition majority.
The Presidency Minister, Jorge Gonzalez, was accountable for presenting the project and told the journalists that the ballot will include two questions to the citizenship, one on whether they want a Constitution transformation and another, if they want these through a Parallel Constituent, as established in the current Magna Carta dating from 1972.
"So we have fulfilled that mandate of the Cabinet Council and also with the President of the Republic's will (Juan Carlos Varela) to make this query to the Panamanian people and this is the one that decides on May 5, (in case) of being approved the bill here in the AN," he said.
The Presidency Minister said that now it is the 71 deputies in the Parliament's responsibility to begin "as soon as possible" the discussion of the initiative, which must pass through three legislative debates in order to be approved.
Gonzalez added that the debate should begin as soon as possible "to have enough time, as the Electoral Court has said, to be able to include, if the bill is approved, this additional ballot in the May 5 general elections."
He thought that it is worth giving the Panamanian people that opportunity and that the next Administrations that assumes that mandate that will be expressed on May 5 about a transformation to the Magna Carta and the way or way to do it.
He also stressed there should be no political flags or divisions "in a moment as important as this", in reference to the majority in Parliament led by the opposition groups the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the party Democratic Change (CD).
Gonzalez said that he hopes it is "a broad, high-level debate, for the country and for the Panamanians, and that we do not include the political debate within the discussion of this bill" to have "an updated instrument to the reality that the Panamanian nation lives nowadays."
The AN indicated last Monday in a statement, that the mentioned initiative by Varela on January 2 during the installation of the second term of the fifth and last period of ordinary sessions of the Legislative Body, "has been interpreted, by certain political sectors, business, and society, as very late."
The approved bill establishes that the citizen's consultation may be called by means of an Electoral Court resolution and will be held simultaneously to the elections of next May, according to the Electoral Code norms, and through two questions.
The first question approved by the Ministers in this consultation will be: "Do you agree with the convening of a Constituent Assembly to adopt a new Constitution?"
While the second question is: "Do you agree that the call is through a Parallel Constituent Assembly in accordance with Article 314 of the current Constitution?"
The result of the consultation "will not be binding for the current administration or for the one that takes office on July 1, 2019," as reported on January 8 by the Secretary of State Communication (SCE).
"The regulation, organization, and execution of the popular consultation will be the responsibility of the TE and the Executive Organ will provide the budgetary resources required," according to official information.
On May 5, 2019, Panama will have general elections to choose the president and vice president of the country, 71 deputies of the National Assembly, 20 deputies of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), 81 mayors and 679 representatives and 9 councilors.