By Luis Miguel Blanco
Panama ends the year with the prospect of an electoral campaign that is predicted to start today, although it is not official yet, the most complicated, competitive, and explosive since returning to democracy in 1989.
Claims for gender parity within the parties; complaints against the Electoral Tribunal for irregularities in the verification of signatures of independent candidates; proselytizing actions hidden out of the campaign, prohibited by the Electoral Code; they season the end of the year and augur the animosity of the tournament.
It will be the first time that pressure has been felt by the social media and platforms of civil society, which for months have been leading the campaign "#No to re-election," which basically directs its messages to that 35 percent of the young electorate which will decide who governs from 2019 to 2024, if they go to the polls.
The pressure is also exercised by the business leadership, which on Sunday through the president of the influential Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, Gabriel Barletta, cried out because from January 2 the Legislative Assembly welcomes "the initiative" of making constitutional “profound changes," which proposed months ago to be ratified by the next legislature.
The biggest, “free,” celebration and to get away a bit from the political clash is sponsored by the Mayor's Office of Panama and the Tourism Authority of Panama, according to official sources, and will be held tonight in a park of the Ribbon Coastal, the marine stroll of the bay, with national artists and the Puerto Rican Gilberto Santa Rosa.
Capital mayor, Jose Blandón, is the presidential candidate of the ruling Panamanian Party (PPa), who must leave office to pursue his political campaign, 60 days before the May 5 elections.
Between Saturday and today the alliances for the presidential elections were countersigned, the first one between the PPa and Popular Party (PP), called "Panama We Can;" which was followed on Sunday by the opposition Democratic Change and Alliance, with its candidate Romulo Roux, the former foreign minister who displaced former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) of the party he founded. That alliance will be called "A change to wake up."
They were followed today by the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), which nominated the former Minister of Agriculture Laurentino Cortizo, with the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA), whose coalition was named "Uniting Forces."
The Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) will go along with its presidential candidate, the construction leader worker Saul Mendez.
To these four candidates will be added the three independents who collect the most votes until next January 4.
But already on Sunday, they began to heat up when the Women's Front of the PRD, chaired by the controversial deputy Zulay Rodriguez, claimed the leadership of his party "compliance with gender parity" in nominations, as ordered by the Code Electoral that must be 50 percent, except in the presidential roster.
Also today, the independent presidential candidate Dimiti Flores denounced in a press conference that the TE is "favoring" "other opponents," which he did not identify.
"The signatures of the deceased were not accepted, now there are more than 3,000 that have been accepted, and the TE says nothing, in addition, there are more than 300,000 officials who are in the books of the candidates for free postulation," he mentioned.
Flores requested an investigation to the electoral public prosecutor, Eduardo Peñaloza, to whom today the period for which it was chosen is expired, and its replacement by the Executive Branch has not been named, that must be approved by the Legislative one by a period of ten years.
The local newspaper La Prensa said days ago that "legislative sources indicate that this position could be negotiated between the Executive and the Legislative Branches to achieve ratification in the Assembly of (two) magistrates of the Supreme Court, pending for more than a year.
The TE, with 45.84 million dollars, will fully assume and supervise the financing of the media campaign of the parties and independents, while for the first time it will launch the "advance vote," between March 4 and April 4 next, only for the president, under certain conditions.