The seven candidates for the Presidency of Panama will measure themselves on Wednesday in their first debate in the lead-up to the general elections on May 5, with the topics of health, education, food, and constitutional reforms as the discussion basis.
This first debate, which will be broadcast on national television and radio as indicated by the electoral law, has generated expectations among analysts who ask politicians for a clear and understandable language for the majority of the population, as well as concrete proposals.
The event will take place on Wednesday night in the dome of the State University of Panama, a facility with 1,200 people capacity that reached full capacity due to invitations to rectors, diplomatic staff and representatives of parties, and civil society, according to the official information.
In this "ideological dispute for the projection of proposals and ideas", as the Electoral Tribunal has defined it, the presidential standard-bearers of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Laurentino "Nito" Cortizo; of the Democratic Change (CD), Romulo Roux; and the Broad Front for Democracy (FAC), Saul Mendez.
Also, the ruling Panameñista Party presidential candidate, Jose Blandon; and the independent candidates Ana Matilde Gomez; Ricardo Lombana and Marco Ameglio.
The candidates must address issues such as the transformation of education; food security and sovereignty; health and human development; and a new constitutional order.
In this context, the constitutional reforms issue is expected to grab the attention of the political and economic sectors, after it was one of the campaign's promises of the current president, Juan Carlos Varela, who finally addressed the issue at the end of last year without any support in Parliament.
Panamanian analyst and constitutional expert Ernesto Cedeño told ACAN-EFE on Tuesday that he expects candidates to be able to communicate their ideas in a language that most Panamanians understand, and especially "the 800,000 young people of the country."
Cedeño said he hopes that the electoral authorities will explain to the public that in another national debate, scheduled for next April, other issues that generate interest in Panamanian society will be addressed and that candidates will also be able to confront ideas in other forums than those organized by the entity of elections.
The analyst and former minister Renato Pereira also told ACAN-EFE on Tuesday that the presidential candidates should use a language with "less academia, fewer promises of long-term projects," and with more "concrete proposals" on issues of society's concern, among which he highlighted public safety and the environment.
According to the electoral timetable, the second presidential debate organized by the Electoral Tribunal, which will also be broadcast on national radio and television, will take place on April 10 at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama (CCIAP), based on issues yet to be defined.
Last week the election body held a draw that determined the order of participation in the Wednesday debate, in which each candidate will have a minute and a half to express their ideas and proposals in a first round, an additional minute in two later, and another minute to address a topic of their choice.
More than 2.7 million voters are summoned to the polls on May 5 to elect a president and vice president, deputies to the National Assembly and the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), mayors, corregimiento representatives, and councilors.
The proselytizing campaign for the elections will officially begin on March 4.