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OAS Mission Congratulates Panamanian Citizens on a Successful Election Day

  May 5, 2014

The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Panama, led by Dr. Lourdes Flores Nano, congratulates the Panamanian people for the civic maturity and democratic vocation they demonstrated in yesterday’s elections. That vocation was evidenced in their massive turnout to the polls, in the atmosphere of respect in which the voting took place, in the prompt acceptance of the results, and, most of all, in the decision made by citizens to maintain democratic equilibrium in the country.

The Mission especially hails the Electoral Tribunal for the exemplary way it conducted the process, which reaffirms its prestige as one of the most recognized institutions in the country. The OAS Electoral Observation Mission (OAS/EOM) regrets that throughout the campaign attempts were made to undermine the Electoral Tribunal’s credibility through accusations directed against its members, an unfortunate trend observed in other countries of the region. The OAS/EOM also recognizes the work of the corps of Electoral Delegates, which enabled the process to be carried out under peaceful conditions.

On the day of the election, the 54 international experts and observers deployed by the OAS throughout the country visited 290 voting centers. In addition, the Mission carried out a series of studies on issues related to the quality of the election process, such as gender equity, campaign financing, election security, inclusion of underrepresented groups, voting abroad, and electoral dispute resolution.

According to our observers’ reports from yesterday, all polling places had the materials needed for people to cast their votes, and almost all of the voting centers had adequate space for voting. In addition, the presence of members of the main parties was noted at practically all polling places in the country. It should be mentioned that at the polling places that were observed, 69% of the poll workers were women, an encouraging sign of progress that was also reflected in the number of women who served in the role of party monitors.

The Mission recognizes as a positive step the fact that electronic voting was put into practice in one of the voting centers in the capital city. Likewise, the Mission would like to point out the efforts made to ensure access to voting for people in hospitals, senior citizen centers, and prisons, as well as for naturalized citizens and Panamanians abroad. That is testimony to a clear sense of inclusion, which should be celebrated.

While recognizing the successful execution of this election, the OAS/EOM believes it is important to mention certain aspects of this electoral process that cannot be ignored and that must be addressed with particular urgency. It is with particular concern that the Mission has observed the visible interference of the executive branch in the electoral contest, in many ways. The candidates of the party in power benefited during the campaign from the use of public resources—particularly, though not only, through the massive distribution of public works carried out by the government. These situations created pronounced asymmetries in the electoral contest.

This last point reflects a broader and perhaps more important concern. The Mission would like to emphasize the urgent need for the highest-level state authorities to provide an example of strict compliance with electoral standards. This is important as a way to educate citizens in civic matters and to give effective force to the basic rules of democratic coexistence. Flagrant and tolerated violations of electoral ground rules by state authorities devalue the democratic process and the rule of law.

Similarly, the Mission has observed with concern that campaign financing is precariously regulated. The law does not establish limits or controls over private donations and/or election expenses. Due to the scant regulation, the cost of the campaign has to all appearances been exorbitant, while also devoid of transparency in terms of the origin of the funds. It is urgent, in our view, for Panamanian political actors to propose to regulate the role of money in political activity, in order to strengthen the equity and integrity of the democratic system.

In terms of the part played by the Office of the Electoral Prosecutor in this process, the Mission believes it is important to rethink this entity’s current role, which is the weakest link in the country’s system of electoral institutions. The OAS/EOM received repeated complaints about the failure of the Office of the Electoral Prosecutor to process complaints and over its passivity in acting of its own accord to respond to clear violations of electoral law. This passivity, it is also fair to say, is exacerbated by defects in the design of the laws governing the Office of the Electoral Prosecutor’s sphere of activity. The Mission emphasizes the need to strengthen the institution in terms of its prerogatives and human and material resources. The Mission also considers it essential for the Office of the Electoral Prosecutor and the Electoral Tribunal to develop permanent and fluid institutional ties so they can harmoniously carry out their roles in the different stages of the electoral process.

The OAS/EOM invites the electoral institutions, political parties, and the National Assembly to once again set up the National Commission on Electoral Reforms. This entity, which has been constituted as a privileged space for dialogue, has been a main source of significant improvements to the democratic process throughout several election cycles. It is, as a matter of fact, a widely recognized practice in the rest of the hemisphere. Due to the importance of the suggestions derived from this entity, the OAS/EOM urges the newly elected National Assembly to seriously consider incorporating any recommendations that come out of this dialogue process, in order to continue perfecting the Panamanian electoral system.

The OAS Observation Mission to Panama will present a report to the OAS Permanent Council with the observations and recommendations that emerge from the work it has done. Finally, the OAS/EOM would like to thank the governments of Bolivia, Chile, France, South Korea, the United States, and Peru for their generous financial contributions for the deployment of this Mission.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-186/14