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Cablegate: Fraud Prevention, Obstructionism, and Bickering.

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 000863

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM


E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL PM POL SPECIALIST
SUBJECT: FRAUD PREVENTION, OBSTRUCTIONISM, AND BICKERING.
PANAMA ELECTION COUNTDOWN #10: 3 WEEKS TO GO


Ref: A. Panama 0730
B. Panama 0791
C. Panama 0828


SUMMARY/COMMENT: EVERYONE PREPARING
-----------------------------------
1. (SBU) Panama's May 2 election - only three weeks away -
is starting to concentrate minds. The Electoral Tribunal
is implementing fraud prevention procedures, informing
voters, and fending off critics. Electoral Prosecutor
Gerardo Solis depoliticized his investigation of the
Presidency's legal slush fund by postponing it until after
the election. Taking the opposite course, President
Moscoso's entire cabinet publicly criticized Solis for
exceeding his mandate under the constitution, a matter over
which they have no authority. Jose Miguel Aleman
(Arnulfista) and Guillermo Endara (Solidarity) are
attacking each other as they compete for the same anti-PRD
voters. With campaigning becoming more energetic and
vigorous daily, Embassy still sees no indication that
cheating or violence will mar May 2 polling. End Summary


What - No Ink?
--------------
2. (U) The Electoral Tribunal's 4/2 decision not to mark
voters' fingers with India ink after they vote on May 2
provoked strong criticism and allegations of potential
electoral fraud. In previous elections, electoral
officials marked each voter's index finger with indelible
ink after he/she voted to prevent individuals from voting
more than once. Electoral Magistrates decided that new
information systems could crosscheck voting records and
easily identify anyone voting more than once. Critics are
concerned about identifying those using more than one
identity cards, and that the lag between Election Day and
data entry could delay definitive polling results; however,
Magistrates Valdes and Allen strongly defended their
decision. They claimed that during the 1999 Elections,
only 100 people voted more than once. After the computer
system caught them, they were brought to electoral trial,
found guilty and sentenced.


One at a time, please
---------------------
3. (SBU) During a radio interview, Director for Education
and Human Rights Promotion of the Ombudsman Office, Cesar
Solano, announced that only blind individuals or those with
motor impediments that limit their ability to write could
be assisted at the voting booth. People with any other
type of disability can be assisted all the way to the
voting area, but should be left alone once there to vote.
The goal is to protect voting secrecy. Solano shared
privately with Embassy why the Electoral Tribunal and the
Ombudsman's Office had addressed this issue. He mentioned
allegations in the 1999 elections that political parties
abused this entitlement in the remote Veraguas province 9-3
Electoral Circuit, "escorting" people without severe
disabilities to the voting area and hovering over them at
the voting booth. (See Reftel A.)


Moscoso's Legal "Secret" Slush Fund: The Saga Continues
--------------------------------------------- ----------
4. (SBU) Electoral Prosecutor Gerardo Solis put the entire
Moscoso cabinet in a tizzy this week. On April 8, the 16-
member cabinet made a joint statement that Solis'
insistence on inspecting Ministry of the Presidency expense
records to look for evidence that discretionary
presidential funds were used illegally, to fund political
activities, is itself illegal, unconstitutional, and
politically motivated. On 4/5, Minister of the Presidency
Mirna Pitti refused to answer Solis' questionnaire
regarding expenditures in her office, stating President
Moscoso herself handles the funds. Though Solis has no
legal authority to investigate Moscoso herself, it is
common knowledge the Minister of the Presidency manages the
funds on a day-to-day basis.


5. (SBU) Solis and others, including a former Electoral
Magistrate and a former Supreme Court Justice, reacted by
stating that Pitti cannot hide behind Moscoso and her
Cabinet's position is wrong. Solis reiterated that he is
not assuming that there has been any wrongdoing with the
fund, but the GOP's position not to reveal details is
questionable. Despite the Solis'threat of immediate legal
action, he stood down and publicly announced that he had
returned the questionnaire to Pitti and set a deadline for
her reply after May 2. Solis justified his decision by
saying that he does not want to influence the ongoing
electoral process.


Endara & Aleman tit for tat
---------------------------
6. (SBU) Former President Guillermo Endara insists that he
remains an Arnulfista, banking on disillusioned party
members to support him. Endara explained that he does not
support Moscoso, so he is not a "Mireyista." Noting his
Arnulfista roots, Endara said that he is not "controlled by
Moscoso or her corrupted inner circle." Throughout the
campaign, members of Jose Miguel Aleman's campaign team
have feared that Arnulfistas, particularly the illiterate,
could get confused and vote for Endara, believing that
Endara (instead of Aleman) is the Arnulfista candidate.
Endara's original attempt to win Arnulfista votes by using
late President Arnulfo Arias' image was censored by the
Electoral Tribunal (ET), spurring Endara to criticize the
institution. Aleman's team has made a strong internal
effort to inform rural Arnulfistas that Aleman, not Endara,
is the party presidential candidate.


7. (SBU) In a shameless vote-grabbing ploy, Arnulfista
Presidential candidate Jose Miguel Aleman staged a photo-op
with several Endara administration cabinet ministers, but
many observers considered it distasteful that a son of one
deceased cabinet member and the widow of another were
included. Former Housing Minister Guillermo Quijano, a
well-known construction developer and TGI Friday's
franchisee, "reminded" Panamanians of the unique and
adverse conditions immediately after Operation Just Cause
when they took office, highlighting how fit they left
Panama at the end of their term. But will that convince
voters not to vote for Endara? Endara's running mate
Guillermo Ford responded that everyone in Endara's cabinet
worked under direct instructions from President Endara and
they should share credit with Endara for their
accomplishments. Ford encouraged Panamanians to vote for
Endara on Election Day so the PRD could not take power.


Another flawed opinion poll
---------------------------
8. (SBU) Local company Investigacion y Mercadeo announced a
poll using a new system. The polling system was
implemented jointly with U.S.-based Greenberg Research,
known for its work on Bill Clinton's campaign. Panama
residents received computer-generated phone calls asking
which presidential candidate they would vote for and to
identify their choices by touch tone key. The sampling
methodology is questionable. Four members of the Embassy
Political Section found messages on their Embassy voicemail
from the automated polling server upon arriving in the
office on April 5. Like other opinion polls in Panama,
this one does not appear very trustworthy. (See Reftel C.)


MCMULLEN

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