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Cablegate: Panama Election Countdown #1: 12 Weeks to Go

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 000298

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM


E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PM POL SPECIALIST
SUBJECT: PANAMA ELECTION COUNTDOWN #1: 12 WEEKS TO GO

Time is up
----------
1. (U) Monday, February 2, marked the deadline for
political parties to register candidacies for presidential,
mayoral, legislative and local representative seats. All
parties complied with the deadline and despite rumors over
the weekend that one would withdraw from the race; all four
presidential candidates submitted their nominations. The
Electoral Tribunal will soon publish a final, official list
of all 12,278 candidates that will run for 1,754 elected
positions.


Partido Liberal Autentico out
-----------------------------
2. (SBU) Electoral Tribunal President Eduardo Valdes
officially announced that the hastily created Partido
Liberal Autentico (PLA) will not be permitted to
participate in the 2004 General Elections. As requested by
Electoral Prosecutor Gerardo Solis, electoral magistrates
will hold hearings to discuss alleged fraudulent membership
registrations in the party. The PLA had already publicly
endorsed PRD/PP presidential candidate Martin Torrijos.
Torrijos was looking forward to PLA's official electoral
recognition to A) form a 3-party coalition as the
Arnulfistas have done; B) have Martin Torrijos' name appear
a third time in the presidential ballot; C) receive $1
million more on campaign subsidies; D) have more candidates
campaigning for Torrijos at the local level.


First national debate
---------------------
3. (U) Following the closing time for official nominations,
the largest local TV chain, MEDCOM (channels 4 & 13) held
the first presidential debate (septel). Despite mixed
feelings among the population about format and questions,
the national consensus was that having such a debate was
positive. At least two more debates are scheduled for
March and April on other TV stations (channels 2 and 21).


Election results: the sooner the better
---------------------------------------
4. (U) The President of the National Counting Board, Fausto
Fernandez, announced that official results of the May 2
elections will be known around 11:00 p.m. that same day.
Voting centers close at 4:00 p.m. and counting starts
immediately after. Tally sheets will then be sent by
electoral representatives to district counting boards.
However, unofficial results for Panama City will be known
by 7:00 p.m. since those counting boards are located
nearby.


Candidate Torrijos meets former Colombian Presidents
--------------------------------------------- -------
5. (U) PRD/PP presidential candidate Martin Torrijos in
Bogota February 4 paid a courtesy call to former Colombian
Presidents Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, Julio Turbay Ayala, and
Ernesto Samper. Reportedly, they discussed regional
topics, including Panama-Colombia border issues. Torrijos
was accompanied by his first vice presidential candidate
Samuel Lewis Navarro and his advisor, former Foreign
Minister and Ambassador to Colombia Jorge Eduardo Ritter.
The trip reflected long-standing ties between the PRD and
Colombia's Liberal Party.


Everything under control, so far
--------------------------------


6. (SBU) Electoral Tribunal Magistrate Dennis Allen
reported to Pol FSN that "things are going smoothly" in the
electoral process so far. According to Allen, an Electoral
Tribunal employee by mistake deleted an electronic
nomination submitted by Partido Popular (PP). PP's
President Ruben Arosemena publicly complained about it, but
the Electoral Tribunal has already informed him that the
candidacy has been accepted.


Campaigning comes first
-----------------------
7. (SBU) A professional legislative staffer complained to
Embassy about "how boring work is these days." Though the
plenum at the Legislative Assembly is in recess, committees
should have been meeting to discuss pending issues.
According to this staffer, Legislative President "Jacobo
Salas makes constant calls for committees to meet, but he
is not successful. Not even those who are not campaigning
are around. We expect a very quite session after March 1
as well," she ended. (Note: The Legislative Assembly
reconvenes officially on March 1, 2004).


Can't get their act together
----------------------------
8. (SBU) An Arnulfista source involved in the Arnulfista
presidential campaign privately shared with Embassy that
"there is lack of communication and certainly little
organization within Aleman's campaign. Competing with
public disappointment with the GOP is a difficult task and
we need as much coordination as possible." The source
claimed that a new campaign strategy is to distance
themselves from President Moscoso "who knows it already."
The source cited Aleman's promise to abolish the
transparency law regulations (passed by Moscoso) as a
start. Embassy asked whether that stance would compromise
Moscoso's support for the candidacy, the source said that
"attacks will not be personal, but against things that the
GOP has ignored doing." On party renovation, he said that
after the elections a movement will promote current
legislator Jose Blandon, Jr. to become the Arnulfista Party
president in 2006, replacing Mireya Moscoso.


WATT

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