Only one day is left for the Cabinet Council to debate on the law that could approve the Electoral Tribunal to integrate the fifth ballot in the elections on May 5, with the initiative to reform the Constitution as requested by outgoing President Juan Carlos Varela last January 2, after his presentation in the National Assembly.
Before the proposal, from the SE, TE itself specified that the only possibility of doing so is to receive legal powers from a competent institution, which in the first instance was expected to be the National Assembly, however, finally it will be the Cabinet Council who has the responsibility of carry out this possible law.
However, the Panamanian Constitution, which was drafted in 1972 during the military dictatorship and has been modified several times since then, establishes in Article 314 that the Constituent Assembly must be convened by the TE at the request of the National Assembly or after a popular consultation.
The article specifies that, once the proposal is accepted, the Electoral Tribunal has a term of not less than three months and no longer than six months to call the election of the sixty constituents that make up the Assembly, which will work in parallel with the Parliament.
The members of the opposition parties Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), Cambio Democrático (CD) and the leftist Frente Amplio por la Democracia (FAD) today rejected the request to use a mechanism to reform the Constitution in the election of May 5 election, proposed by the government.
The PRD said in a statement that Varela intends to divert attention from national problems, "insists on an initiative that seeks to disturb the electoral process and delivered an absurd and contradictory note to the Electoral Tribunal (ET) on the inclusion of the additional ballot in the May elections, with the aggravation of pretending that the consultation contemplates a method outside the Constitution".
The CD regretted that the speech of the head of state did not reflect the reality of the Central American nation, and that he only be limited to his own "dreams". "It strikes us that the president, in the midst of the electoral process, comes out once again with the idea of a fifth ballot, it is nothing more than a politicking measure", said the party founded by former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014).
The FAD pointed out that the news is a "smoke bomb" in the midst of the country's institutional crisis in the face of numerous economic and social problems. And the refusal is not only in opposition parties, but also in many sectors, experts and civilians, who indicate that it is very "peculiar" that in the absence of six months to fulfill his mandate, Varela remember one of his strongest electoral promises.
Much of the rejection of this measure is based on very clear and recent antecedents such as those of Venezuela, where the reforms and pro-government amendments to the constitution allowed the extension of the presidential term, approval of indefinite re-election and the last: to establish a National Constituent Assembly parallel to the original, which finally absorbed all the weight and decisions in the country by force, subtracting importance, respect and meritocracy to the elected in 2016 with an overwhelming electoral result adverse to the government, not to mention that this constituent assembly was convened irregularly.
Although a large part of the lawyers in Panama agree on the lack of modernization in the legal structure of the country, they also understand that this Varela’s action is as desperate as it is timeless, since the consequences that it can leave could be ominous for the next mandate.
Having two assemblies, in one of the possible scenarios, is to allow the next government to be in front of two different institutions that, if they do not delimit permits, spaces and responsibilities, would be in constant confrontation, proposal and political rejection, without achieve considerable progress, taking into account the hypothetical case in which the National Assembly will be led by the opposition sector, the Constituent in favor of Varela and the new government, in between them regardless of their position.
In addition, one of the things that most attracts attention is the moment in which Varela calls this possible reform, because if it will be approved, we would be before a constituent that could only act for the next government, without forget that in case of be original, could even ignore the president-elect and call new elections, even if this government were proclaimed with a 100% of the popular vote.
For the moment, there is only one day left for the Cabinet Council to present its position before the legal authorization of the TE to carry out the process, as well as the National Assembly to express its position on the matter.