The reform of the Constitution, a project with no future in Panama in the short term

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  • Sat, 02/02/2019 - 12:16
Asamblea Nacional
  • EFE

María M.Mur

The reform of the Constitution is a debate that has been recurrent in Panama in recent years, but that has little chances of taking place in the short term given the proximity of the next general election and the open confrontation between the main parties, experts told to Acan-Efe.

The Panamanian government presented two weeks ago in Parliament a bill that seeks to hold a consultation on constitutional reforms in parallel to the elections on May 5, which has no prospect of prospering given the rejection of the parliamentary majority.

The lawyer and constitutional expert Ernesto Cedeño told to Acan-Efe that the legislative initiative is "inopportune", since there are only three months left for the elections, and he encouraged the presidential candidates to include the constitutional reform in their electoral programs.

"That bill has no future, the Partido Democrático Revolucionario (PRD) and Cambio Democrático (CD) -the main opposition forces- have already said that they will not give support to this project", he said.

Cedeño, who believes that the reform of the constitution is necessary to give more independence to the judiciary, thinks that the Executive presented the legislative proposal to be able to say that it "has complied" with one of the main electoral promises of the president, Juan Carlos Varela, in power since 2014.

The bill, which must be approved in three parliamentary debates, aims to include a new ballot in the May elections, which would raise two questions to the public: one on whether you want changes to the Constitution and another if you want those changes to be through a Parallel Constituent.

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 Tribunal at the request of the National Assembly or after a popular consultation.

The former president of the National Bar Association, Juan Carlos Araúz, indicated that the opposition will reject the bill because of the form and time it has been presented and not because it considers that a constitutional reform is not necessary.

For Araúz, it is "a social claim that needs a response" and the opposition is just as "responsible" as the Government for not having discussed the constitutional changes before.

"We must remember that Varela had the support of the opposition during his first years and had almost no parliamentary resistances, the opposition could have demanded it and the transformation of the State could have been carried out", he added.

The president of the Government Commission, the deputy of the PRD Rubén De León, described on Thursday as "totally unconscious" the presentation of the proposal of the fifth ballot, and opined that it seems that what the government is looking for is to comply and then evade its responsibility saying that it was rejected.

"I believe, like many Panamanians, that this is an idea born in the last moment of a government that is five months away from abandon power, and intends to leave a complicated situation to the next administration", said De Leon in a note of the PRD parliamentary caucus, majority with 26 of the 71 seats of the National Assembly.

Varela has said that he relegated the issue of constitutional reform to concentrate the Government's efforts on the sanitation of public administration.

The Government spoke in 2018 to promote reforms in the composition of the National Assembly and the system of election of judges of the Supreme Court through constitutional changes.

According to President Varela, Panama needs "a new constitutional order in order to achieve the fundamental changes that society has been demanding and that would result in the modernization of State institutions and the strengthening of the young democracy" of the country.

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