Cablegate: Panama: Democratic Change Internal Poll Indicates


DE RUEHZP #0815/01 1372223
R 172223Z MAY 07

.C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000815



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2017



1. (C) Democratic Change (CD) leader Ricardo Martinelli
continued to lead the polls among Panamanian presidential
aspirants, CD VP Roberto Henriquez told POLCOUNS on May 17.
Henriquez later provided POLCOUNS a copy of a private CID
Gallup poll conducted for CD in May that showed Martinelli
leading in six different prospective multi-candidate races.
"Unless his numbers fall dramatically, below ten percent,
Martinelli will run," Henriquez said. Regarding a possible
opposition interparty primary, he said that the CD was
already unified behind its candidate, was prepared to enter
into unity discussions with others in the opposition, but did
not contemplate participating in such an interparty primary
at this time.

Martinelli Wins in Six Scenarios

2. (C) The May 2007 CID Gallup poll conducted privately for
CD asked voters to choose their preferred candidate in each
of six scenarios. The scenarios were designed to test
Martinelli's strength against different governing
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) candidates in different
2, 3 and 4 candidate scenarios. The results of which are as

Scenario 1: (3-way race against Navarro and Endara)
Guillermo Endara (Moral Vanguard of the
Country - VMP): 19.3 percent
Juan Carlos Navarro (Democratic Revolutionary
Party -PRD): 23.7 percent
Ricardo Martinelli (CD): 30.9 percent
None: 20.8 percent
Did Not Know/Respond: 5.4 percent

Scenario 2: (4-way race against Endara, Navarro, and Varela
Endara: 18.3 percent
Navarro: 23.0 percent
Martinelli: 30.9 percent
Juan Carlos Varela (Panamenista
Party): 4.4 percent
None: 19.1 percent
Did Not Know/Respond: 4.3 percent

Scenario 3: (4-way race against Endara, Varela, and Herrera)
Endara: 17.8 percent
Martinelli: 31.4 percent
Varela: 7.5 percent
Balbina Herrera (PRD):
19.2 percent
None: 19.8 percent
Did Not Know/Respond: 4.2 percent

Scenario 4: (4-way race against Endara, Varela, and Perez
Endara: 20.0 percent
Martinelli: 34.7 percent
Varela: 8.6 percent
Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares
(PRD): 3.5 percent
None: 28.1 percent
Did Not Know/Respond: 5.1 percent

Scenario 5: (4-way race against Endara, Varela, and Lewis)
Endara: 20.0 percent
Martinelli: 35.0 percent
Varela: 10.6 percent
Samuel Lewis (PRD):
2.7 percent
None: 27.6 percent
Did Not Know/Respond: 4.1 percent

Scenario 6: (Head-to-head race against Navarro)

Navarro: 28.4 percent
Martinelli: 37.3 percent
None: 28.6 percent
Did Not Know/Respond: 5.7

3. (C) Henriquez asserted that the results of this poll
tracked closely with the results of a similar parallel poll
contracted privately by CD with Borges and Associates, though
he did not share this poll with POLCOUNS. Current Panama
City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro (PRD) would be by far the
strongest PRD candidate that Martinelli could face, Henrique
noted, but Navarro was not President Martin Torrijos'
preferred successor. Navarro would need to turn his back on
Torrijos but still maintain PRD party unity in order to make
a run for the presidency. Torrijos' preferred successor,
current First VP and FM Samuel Lewis, only polled 2.7 percent
and was out polled by respondents who indicated, "None."
Henriquez was dismissive of the prospect that current
Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera would run for president.
"Balbina will win in a walk to be the next mayor of Panama
City," he said, though he conceded that a Lewis-Herrera
ticket (with Herrera as vice presidential candidate) would be
a formidable ticket. Ultimately, the PRD's presidential
candidate would start the campaign from a base of at least
thirty percent in the polls, Henriquez conceded. Henriquez
said that the most surprising result of the poll was Endara's
strength: "He's a stone in our shoe, sapping support that
would otherwise go to Martinelli."

CD Not Interested in Interparty Primary

4. (C) While noting that the CD had not closed the door to
an interparty primary, Henriquez said that it was not in
Martinelli's interest to participate in an interparty
primary. Martinelli still came out ahead in 3- and 4-way
races, and "We are united behind Martinelli while the
Panamenistas are in disarray and Patriotic Union (UP) has no
candidate." Ultimately, Endara had to secure the endorsement
of the Panamenistas if he were to have any viability as a
candidate. For most Panamenistas, the interparty primary was
viewed as a way to ensure that the Panamenista Party --
Panama's largest opposition party -- would hold the top of
the ticket since under the interparty primary rules only
voters who were registered with a party could participate,
unregistered voters could not. Henriquez explained that
ultimately Panamanian Presidential elections were determined
by the 60 percent of voters who were not registered. Though
the CD was small party (about 86,000 members), he argued that
Martinelli, who positioned himself as a new kind of
politician who sought to contrast himself with the
traditional party leaders in the PRD and the Panamenista
parties, appealed strongly to independent voters and secured
significant support from other parties' loyalists as well.
For Varela, Henriquez asserted, the interparty primary was a
mechanism to move the Panamenista party towards acceptance of
a non-Panamenista at the top of the ticket. Henriquez
confided that Martinelli and Varela had been in discussions
regarding collaboration that would ceded the vice
presidential spot to Varela. Finally, Henriquez also
complained that the interparty primary process drew out the
election campaign timeline and drained the opposition of
energy and resources. First, parties would have to hold
nationwide primaries, and then the opposition would need to
hold a nationwide interparty primary. "These primaries and
the interparty primary would be expensive," Henriquez said.
"They will drain the opposition of money and energy, and it
will be difficult to regain sufficient strengthen to be able
to taken on the PRD machine eight months after the interparty


5. (C) "Of course, I'll share this poll with you," Henriquez
told POLCOUNS. "It contains great news for us." Clearly
elated that Martinelli consistently scored 30 percent or
higher in these polls -- especially the head-to-head poll
against Navarro -- Henriquez believed that Martinelli
remained strong and should continue to prepare to run alone
though remain open to forming a unity coalition with others
in the opposition. "Martinelli will have to come around to
the fact that he will have to participate in the interparty
primary," Panamenista Vice President Fernando Arias told

POLCOUNS on May 16. "That's the only way he would be able to
harness the Panamenistas' nationwide machine." Arias and
others in the opposition believe that Martinelli has reached
the upper limits of his popularity and that he will begin to
fall in the polls. For the time being though, Martinelli
remains a significant force in the Panama's opposition, a
force with which other opposition leader will need to come to

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