Contributed by: Don WinnerFor more than twelve straight hours, the Deputies of the Democratic Change party, the PRD, and the Paname˝istas have been in session and debating on second reading Bill 508 which amends the Election Code. During the session the Democratic Change Party introduced three more articles on electoral reforms.
One of them provides that any dirty campaign that violates election law must first be submitted to the Electoral Prosecutor, who will then have 15 days to review and to publicize his opinion, and only later if a crime has been committed could it be removed from the air.
Another Article was added, which says those Independent candidates who aspire to be president, who have collected the necessary number of signatures, may be nominated by a political party.
The CD also proposes that any candidate running for the presidency would not have to be separated from a high ranking position held internally within the political party.
According to the Deputy from the opposition Paname˝ista party Jose Isabel Blandon, currently the Electoral Tribunal can order the removal of any smear campaign without having to consult anyone. "What happened today is extremely serious, and it reflects the true intentions of the government benches," he added. With regards to independent candidates, Blandon said this type of think would not be able to happen in reality. Blandon also denounced that the opposition was not allowed to introduce bills to delay the debate. "As Deputies we have the right to present actions to delay the debate, it is within the rules of procedure of the Assembly," he said.
For his part, the Deputy from the Molirena party Miguel Fanovich said the full Assembly is sovereign because there has been opportunity to debate. He said from the first day the Panamanian society as well as all Deputies were involved in the reforms. With regards to the delaying tactics that were being used by the opposition, he said this is the first time they have presented so many Bills in order to delay the debate. (Panama America)
Editor's Comment: OK, three interesting things were introduced by the CD party. First of all, the Electoral Prosecutor is controlled by the CD, but the three judges of the Electoral Tribunal are not. If you will remember a few months ago the judges of the Electoral Tribunal ordered the removal of a political ad that attacked Juan Carlos Varela for not paying his workers minimum wage. It was causing him a whole lot of damage, so he went to the Electoral Tribunal and they ordered it to be removed from the air. Now with this change, any complaints would first have to be presented to the Electoral Prosecutor, and if he determines that no law has been broken, then it would end right there. Therefore, this Article strips a significant degree of power from the Electoral Tribunal, and this is probably one of the primary reasons why the President of the Electoral Tribunal Gerardo Solis - who is a PRD lapdog - has so vehemently opposed these reforms.
On the second element regarding Independent candidates who want to run for President. This was written specifically to screw over Juan Carlos Tapia and Juan JovanÚ, the two people who are most likely to aspire to the Presidency as Independent candidates. If this Article is adopted, then they would be required to gather a minimum number of signatures, but then they would require a political party to support their nomination in order for it to move forward. There are only (exactly) five political parties in Panama that have been legally recognized by the Electoral Tribunal. They are - the Partido Revolucionario Democrativo (PRD), the Partido Popular (PP), the Movimiento Liberal Republicano Nacionalista (MOLIRENA), the Cambio Democratico (CD), and the Partido Paname˝ista. There is a chance the Article is being written this way to sort of "force" Juan Carlos Tapia to either run as a CD candidate or not run at all. And this would also force the Partido Popular to either support Juan JovanÚ as their independent candidate, or align with the PRD. In reality at election time three presidential candidates will emerge from these five parties. The PRD and the PP will align behind Juan Carlos Navarro, the CD and MOLIRENA will align behind whoever they pick as their candidate, and the Paname˝istas will support either Juan Carlos Varela or Mireya Moscoso, depending on the results of their internal primary. That leaves Juan Carlos Tapia and Juan JovanÚ with basically nowhere to turn, because as a result of this new Article they would need the backing of an existing and valid political party. Not very "independent," but moving on...
The third point is written specifically for Juan Carlos Navarro and the PRD. Internal to their party, the "dinosaurs" before they were voted out of office injected language to their party rules which prohibits any high ranking party officer from seeking political office. They did this because Mitchell Doens had no intention of running for the presidency, and he just wanted to stay on as the General Secretary of their National Executive Committee. But now in August Juan Carlos Navarro has won an internal party election, and he has taken over the party from the old "dinosaurs." The language in this article would effectively nullify or make illegal the internal PRD party prohibition, and would supposedly allow Juan Carlos Navarro - and the rest of the members of their CEN - to run for office. But one has to ask, why in the name of hell would the CD want to do that? They have to know Navarro is their biggest threat. Wouldn't it make more sense to just allow the PRD to keep screwing themselves? They don't have any other strong candidate who might win in 2014, so why let Navarro out of the bag? Again, there's more here than meets the eye.
And then to wrap it all up, Blandon complained, and Fanovich supported and justified. No surprise there. I suspect the National Assembly will ram this sucker through quickly, and then let the chips fall where they may. Expect Ricardo Martinelli to hop on his jet to fly to another country in order to reinforce his "plausible deniability" when the final debate occurs and the law is passed, because that's what he always does when another branch of government is doing something on his behalf.