Cablegate: Panama: New Poll Out


DE RUEHZP #1210/01 1972159
R 162159Z JUL 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001210



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2017

Classified By: POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (C) While Democratic Change (CD) President and presumed
presidential candidate Ricardo Martinelli maintained a
comfortable lead in the polls and dominated the opposition,
the real news of Dichter and Neira's latest poll was the near
two-fold jump in undecideds "don't knows," and "didn't
answers." Panama City broadsheet daily La Prensa published
the results of Dichter and Neira's July 6-8 poll on July 16.
Other notable results included:

-- Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera's comfortable lead
among governing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD)
presidential hopefuls;
-- the continued floundering of First VP and FM Samuel Lewis,
President Martin Torrijos' preferred successor, in the polls;
-- the significant slip of former President Ernesto "El Toro"
Perez Balladares in the polls losing nearly have of his
support to end up at a paltry 3.8 percent support, and
-- Panamenista Party President Juan Carlos Varela's loss of
two-thirds of his support since March placing him with a
meager 2.5 percent support among opposition options.

According to this poll, the race for the PRD presidential
nomination is between Herrera and Panama City Mayor Juan
Carlos Navarro while the race to lead the opposition is
between Martinelli and former President and Moral Vanguard of
the Nation (VMP) President Guillermo Endara. Still
twenty-two months from the May 2009 elections, there are
still party conventions to be held and formal candidacies to
be announced though. In short, there is still plenty of time
and political space for this race to change and develop. End

--------------------------------------------- ----------
And the Winner is . . . Martinelli, but Undecideds Grow
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (U) Democratic Change (CD) President and presumed
presidential candidate Ricardo Martinelli came out the winner
in this poll with 22.7 percent, a slip of 2 percentage points
since March 2007. The real news of this poll was the
remarkable growth of undecideds, "did not knows," and "did
not responds" from 12.6 percent in March to 23.9 percent in
July, a jump of 11.3 points. Governing PRD member and
Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera polled 16.7 percent, down
0.7 percent from March. PRD member and Mayor of Panama City
Juan Carlos Navarro dropped 6.7 points to 12.7 percent.
Former President and leader of the Moral Vanguard of the
Nation (VMP) Guillermo Endara gained a little ground, only
0.8 points, ending up at 8.5 percent. Meanwhile, PRD member
and former President Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares saw
his support cut nearly in half from 7.4 percent in March to
3.8 percent in July. The following candidates did not beat
the margin of error of the poll (2.9 percent): Panamenista
Party President Juan Carlos Varela (2.5 percent), perennial
presidential aspirant Alberto Vallarino (2.0 percent), and
PRD member and First VP and FM Samuel Lewis (0.7 percent).
All candidates except Endara, however, suffered a slide in
the polls ranging from 0.2 to 6.7 points as undecideds
increased nearly two-fold.

Herrera Leads Government Candidates

3. (U) Herrera led governing PRD party prospects taking 26.8
percent on a closed question regarding PRD presidential
hopefuls only. Navarro trailed Herrera by 7.1 points
securing 19.7 percent on this question. Perez Balladares
(5.8 percent), Lewis (1.3 percent), and former Minister of
Agriculture Laurentino Cortizo (0.6 percent) lagged
significantly behind Herrera and Navarro. A total of 10.9
percent responded indicated they supported none of the

Martinelli Dominates Opposition

4. (U) In a closed question regarding the opposition's
presidential prospects, Martinelli was head and shoulders in
the lead with 34 percent, a slip of 3 points since March.
Endara garnered slightly more than one third of Martinelli's
support with 12.6 percent, a slip of 2.5 points. Alberto
Vallarino, who recently announced he was debating whether to
join the Panamenista or the Patriotic Union (UP) party and
who has not announced his candidacy, jumped two full points
to 6.2 percent. Varela meanwhile lost two-thirds of his
support plummeting from 15.1 percent in March to 4.9 percent
in July. Respondents indicating "none" jumped 10.7 points to
11.1 percent while "did not know or did not respond" grew 3.6
points to 27.9 percent.


Technical Data

5. (U) Dichter and Neira Latin Research conducted this poll
from Friday, July 6 through Sunday, July 8. The sample size
was 1,218 face-to-face interviews. The universe of possible
interviewees included all Panamanians over the age of
eighteen residing in Panama. The sample was 49.7 percent
female and 50.3 percent male, 69.5 percent lived in rural
areas and 30.5 percent lived in urban areas, and 31 percent
indicated a political party affiliation and 69 percent did
not. The level of error, confirmed by re-interviews of an
unknown number of those polled, was plus or minus 2.9 percent.


6. (C) The big news in this poll is the growth in undecideds
and those who indicated no preference for any of the
presidential options. Increasingly, voters are in a grumpy
mood confronted by the increasing cost of goods and services
(e.g., gasoline, electricity, the basic food basket), the
perception that the GOP is not doing anything on key issues
(e.g., public transportation, investigation into the
dietheylene glycol deaths), and a weariness with politics and
government as usual (e.g., the spat between the Supreme Court
and the Attorney General, perceptions of ineptitude in the
police, continued education problems). Navarro told
Ambassador July 16, "There is a general sense of malaise."
Voters took out their bad feelings on all politicians. To
date, we have seen no indication that President Martin
Torrijos is prepared to step back from his support for Lewis
to be his successor; this poll will raise more questions
about Lewis' viability, however. Also, Varela's precipitous
drop in the polls will undermine his ability to struggle at
the helm of the Panamenista party, let alone launch a
presidential campaign. Martinelli, the one candidate that
other opposition parties do not mention in their musings
about opposition alliances, continues to dominate the
opposition panorama begging the question of how long other
opposition parties believe they can refrain from parlaying
with Martinelli. The next watershed in the political
calendar will be the various party conventions, all of which
except the PRD's, will be held in August and September.

© Scoop Media

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