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Cablegate: Panama May 2 Election Results: Powerful Prd And

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 001047

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPT. FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PM POL CHIEF POLITICS FOREIGN POLICY
SUBJECT: PANAMA MAY 2 ELECTION RESULTS: POWERFUL PRD AND
AGONIZED ARNULFISTAS


REF: A. PANAMA 0896
B. PANAMA 1014
C. PANAMA 1015


Classified By: DCM Christopher J. McMullen for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)


Summary: Voters embrace Torrijos and snub Moscoso
--------------------------------------------- ----

1. (C) President-elect Martin Torrijos and his Democratic
Revolutionary Party (PRD) won a commanding popular mandate in
Panama's May 2, 2004 elections, sweeping all provinces but
one. The results were a stinging rebuke of President Mireya
Moscoso, whose five-year term will end on September 1, 2004.
Youth and women strongly backed Torrijos, whose "new PRD" was
the only one of Panama's seven legally-recognized parties to
hold primaries before the May 2004 elections. Embassy's 28
volunteer election observers, including Ambassador and DCM,
watched the orderly and extensive (over 75%) May 2 polling
throughout the country. Torrijos finished with 47% of the
vote, the strongest showing for a PRD candidate since 1989.
Second-place finisher Guillermo Endara took 31.0% of the
vote, leaving Arnulfista candidate Jose Miguel Aleman
(Moscoso's former Foreign Minister) a distant third with 16%,
the weakest showing ever for the Arnulfista Party.
Perceptions of the Moscoso administration's image of
corruption and ineffectiveness dragged Aleman down, but
Arnulfista dissident Guillermo Endara's reputation for
honesty and integrity attracted many votes. The PRD won a
plurality of at least 36 of Panama's 78 legislative seats and
could win up to four more. The PRD also won the mayoral
seats in Panama's three largest cities, Panama, Colon, and
David. End Summary.


Torrijos' PRD on Top
--------------------

2. (C) Martin Torrijos' triumph won him every Panamanian
province but the small indigenous "comarca" of Kuna Yala
(Aleman's only victory). Torrijos' persistent campaigning
since his May 1999 loss to Mireya Moscoso brought him backing
from young, energetic voters and attracted several members of
other parties and independents. Torrijos' youth supporters
joined his campaign through the PRD's "Team Martin."
Torrijos has marketed himself as a modern leader and used the
PRD primaries to show that the PRD, once the political
vehicle of military dictators, may indeed be Panama's most
democratically-run party. The PRD was so organized that
rather than handing out campaign souvenirs like caps and
T-shirts, they were able to sell them to finance the
campaign. (Comment: The Torrijos team's ability to stifle
press coverage of Martin's tangential involvement in a 1985
kidnapping is one of the few elements reminiscent of the
PRD's old profile. (See Reftel A for details.) End Comment.)


Moscoso in the doldrums
-----------------------

3. (C) President Mireya Moscoso, reeling from her party's
greatest defeat ever, was clearly stunned and hurt when she
conceded victory to Torrijos on May 2. Running on a
third-party ticket, Guillermo Endara, who left Moscoso's
Arnulfista Party in early 2003 claiming that it had strayed
from its roots under her leadership, nearly doubled
Arnulfista Jose Miguel Aleman's anemic showing. The sting of
Endara's strong showing would have been bad enough without
the massive support that Panamanians gave to Torrijos and his
party, the Arnulfistas' arch-enemies. Endara's slogan, "A
Real President" spoke to Panamanians disgruntled with the
Moscoso administration's perceived incompetence and its
failure to halt corruption or spur employment. Voters also
rejected Moscoso's arrogant refusal to make her government
more transparent as they embraced Torrijos' "more jobs, more
security, zero corruption" message.


What will happen to the Arnulfista's?
-------------------------------------

4. (C) The Arnulfista Party's sound May 2 defeat could
encourage either turnover in party leadership or exodus from
the party. In his May 2 concession speech, Aleman said he
would not run again, to make way for other candidates like
Carlos Raul Piad (his campaign manager), Marco Ameglio
(Arnulfista's losing candidate for Mayor of Panama), and
Alberto Vallarino (1999 third-party candidate who obtained
17% of the vote). Relations between Moscoso and the latter
two, particularly Vallarino, are extremely tense. If Moscoso
refuses to loosen her iron grip on the Arnulfista Party, some
observers have speculated that Endara (who could not himself
return to the Arnulfistas having been expelled) will start a
new party, attracting traditional Arnulfistas as he did for
the May 2 general election. The four months that remain in
Moscoso's presidency might well indicate which way the party
will go.


What about the Legislature?
---------------------------

5. (SBU) Although not all results have been tallied,
non-official results published on the Electoral Tribunal
website (http://www.tribunal-electoral.gob.pa) point to
winners in 74 of 78 legislative seats and tendencies for the
other four. Incumbents did rather badly. The net results
are:


PARTY # Legislators
----- -------------
Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) 36
Arnulfista Party (PA) 18
Solidarity Party (PS) 9
Natl. Liberal Republican Movement (MOLIRENA) 4
National Liberal Party (PLN) 3
Democratic Change Party (CD) 3
Popular Party (PP) 1


6. (SBU) The four remaining seats are in hotly-contested and
heavily-populated multi-legislator electoral circuits subject
to Panama's complicated proportional representation formula
to identify winners. The PRD could win all four remaining
seats and thereby gain an absolute majority in Panama's
unicameral legislature. Given the Popular Party's poor
showing in the legislature, it is in danger of being
dissolved if it does not obtain at least 4% of the votes for
President as set forth in Panama's Electoral Code.
Statistics to confirm the PP's survival or demise are not yet
available. (Note: The Popular Party is Panama's former
Christian Democratic Party. End Note.)


What observers saw
------------------

7. (SBU) Embassy Panama's twenty-eight volunteer observers,
disbursed throughout the country on May 2, noted a largely
orderly and civil process. Like OAS observers and
Panamanians working for the Ombudsman's Office and the
Catholic Church's Peace and Justice Commission, we saw a
record number of Panamanians (approximately 77% of registered
voters) turn out to vote. OAS Observer Chief Moises Benamor
told PolOff that he considered Panama's electoral process to
be exemplary in the region. As they return to the office,
Embassy observers are turning in questionnaires that they
completed at each voting place about the process. Embassy
will analyze the results of the questionnaires to assess the
technical aspects of the process.


WATT

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