The schedule of Panamanian primaries, organized for the first time by the Electoral Tribunal (TE), will start on Sunday with those of Cambio Democrático (CD), of the imprisoned former President Ricardo Martinelli, to choose the presidential candidate in the 2019 elections and also the new party leader, according to analysts.
In total there will be six political parties that will choose their candidates for the general elections of May 2019 between this Sunday
and November 17, when Panamanians will choose 1,722 positions, between main and alternates, including the new president for the 2019-2024 period.
A magistrate of the TE, Eduardo Valdés, assured that the calendar of the primaries has been fulfilled as it was agreed "with each of the parties and following the framework decree that regulates" the process.
With the approval in April 2016 of some amendments to the Electoral Code, the primaries were left in the hands of the Tribunal, an entity headed by three principal magistrates.
Valdés stressed in relation to the organization of the process that "the most important thing is the number of polling stations" enabled
"and where they are being put", leaving behind the practice of the parties to accommodate the polling stations for the benefit of certain pre-candidates, explained the chief electoral magistrate.
The reputation of a serious and law-abiding organism makes expectations about this unprecedented primary process positive, the lawyer and former government minister during the military regime Renato Pereira told EFE.
In his opinion, the Court "deserves a round of applause, has played a very important role in the organization of elections" in Panama after the end of the military dictatorship in 1989 with the overthrow of Manuel Antonio Noriega by a US invasion.
In the five elections held after the fall of the dictatorship "the results have been given immediately afterwards (...) there is confidence in the work of the TE", added Pereira.
Judge Valdes announced that this Sunday preliminary information on the winner of the presidential primary of the CD will be given, where about a dozen politicians will compete, including the current president of the party, former Foreign Minister Rómulo Roux, and
former minister of Security José Raúl Mulino.
"In Panama, all the elections have been won by the opposition, hence the importance of the primaries" of this CD Sunday, which together with the historic Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) are currently representing the opposition, Pereira said.
The CD, founded two decades ago by Martinelli, imprisoned in the framework of a cause for alleged illegal wiretapping during his term (2009-2014), is the third largest party by number of adherents, and this Sunday 353,939 members are eligible to vote in the primary, according to the figures of the TE.
Martinelli presided over the CD until last January, when he was dethroned in an internal voting by Roux, whom allies of the former
president, including Mulino, labeled as "traitor" and being a pawn of the current head of state, Juan Carlos Varela, what the presidential candidate denies.
"Not only who is going to be the presidential candidate is on the line, but also who will be left with the party: Roux, who won against
all odds (internals last January) or Mulino, who wants to present himself as the founder’s heir," said Pereira.
Both candidates maintained a triumphalist speech during the campaign that began on June 26 and ended on Thursday.
From Friday and until next Sunday, the reflection period for the members of the CD will be developed and political proselytizing is
prohibited, stressed the electoral body.
After this Sunday, the CD will choose the rest of its candidates for elected office on September 30.
The PRD, the largest party in Panama with 506,920 adherents according to the data of the TE, will choose both its presidential candidate and the other candidates for the general elections of May 2019 on September 16.
The ruling Panameñista Party (PPa), with 361,664 members, will choose all its candidates, including the presidential one, on October 28.