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Anniversary of the OAS Electoral Observation Celebrated in Panama

  February 6, 2013

The Organization of American States (OAS), the Electoral Tribunal of Panama, and the Justice and Peace Commission of Panama commemorated fifty years of OAS Electoral Observation in the hemisphere with a panel discussion entitled "The importance of electoral observation to democracy: the case of Panama."

In the opening ceremony, Ambassador Abigail Castro de Pérez, OAS representative in Panama, said that "the Electoral Observation Missions of the OAS have become an essential instrument for the promotion and defense of democracy in the hemisphere, in that they promote the power to elect and be elected, in an inclusive, open and transparent way, and that the popular will expressed by citizens at the polls is respected."

Similarly, Castro de Pérez expressed gratitude to the Electoral Tribunal of Panama for the unlimited support given to the commemoration, and cited the words of Secretary General Insulza to underline the importance of electoral observation: "This is an unprecedented period in our history, in which all the OAS member countries democratically elect their governments in competitive, free and transparent elections. We must strengthen these processes and make them progressively better and more accessible to all citizens."

The Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO) of the OAS, Betilde Muñoz Pogossian, opened the round table with the presentation "OAS electoral observation: challenges and reality," in which she explained chronologically the evolution of the Electoral Observation Missions (EOM), from their inception to their current level of sophistication.

For his part, the Magistrate Vice President of the Panamanian Electoral Tribunal, Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, contextualized the national experience with a presentation entitled "The importance of electoral observation: the Panamanian experience," which narrated the historical evolution of the observation missions and stressed their importance in strengthening local ownership of electoral observation.

Valdés Escoffery emphasized the promotion of institutional partnerships between the Electoral Court and various organizations of civil society, in order to strengthen the unique nature of the Panamanian electoral body. He also emphasized that the Electoral Tribunal has requested the presence of the OAS continuously since 1991.

The National Director of the Commission for Justice and Peace, Maribel Jaén, presented a report entitled "25 years of electoral observation, lessons learned," in which she explained the important role played by the Church in observation and electoral transparency since 1993 and how, through them, civil society is exercising this responsibility to observe elections across the country.
For his part, the Chair of the Electoral Delegates Corps, Fausto Fernández, explained the role of this organization, composed of volunteer observers, noting that similar organizations only exist in Costa Rica and Panama.

Stanley Muschett, Rector of the Universidad Interamericana de Panamá, summarized the issues presented by the panelists and concluded by recognizing the effectiveness and independence enjoyed by the Electoral Tribunal of Panama. At the same time, he spoke about how electoral observation has influenced the transparency of the electoral process in Panama and in the hemisphere since the OAS sent its first mission to Costa Rica on February 4, 1962, and how civil society supports the electoral processes in the country through citizen oversight.

The event was attended by ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Panama, senior government officials, the public prosecutor’s office; university academics, election observers, representatives of political parties, representatives of international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations and civil society.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-035/13