May 2, 2014

Election Fever---2 days and Counting

Following the Panama Presidential election activities has been interesting and enlightening. Can't wait to find out who will be elected.  According to all polls and publications, the three major candidates are running neck and neck,  and this is promised to be the closest election in Panama's history.  

As an expat, I am not allowed to vote, and I'm also cautioned against campaigning for, or openly expressing support for any particular party or candidate.  Does this mean I can't have an opinion? Hardly!  But in my own self-interest, I've chosen not to elaborate further.  Truth be told, I'm actually relieved that I can't vote in the election, because choosing a candidate would be a stressful decision for me.  

The campaign, like most US campaigns, has been fraught with mud-slinging. Panamanians I've spoken with have expressed revulsion at the tone of this campaign, stating it has been the dirtiest in their history.  I wouldn't know, but it doesn't seem any worse than what we see in the good old USA each election term. 

Today was the closure of the CD (Cambio Democratico) campaign, and I watched candidate Jose Domingo Arias' speech.  I have to say he made me like him.  He has charisma.  I found myself sold on the causes and projects he touted, despite deep concerns about the way the CD party has conducted business these past 5 years.  I also have worries regarding the veracity of his promises, as I would with any politician's pre-election promises.   Despite the likeability factor, and the fact that Mr. Arias is an economist with a stateside college education,  I worry a good deal about what will develop with Panamanian democracy should he win the election. As I see it, things could go either way depending upon this candidate's personal character and the amount of influence he actually will have within his own democratic party.  

Given that, I also have concerns regarding the other two leading candidates---one for the alleged financial scandals that shadow him and fears about his integrity being any greater than those of prior candidates (its hard to discern fact from negative propaganda) and the other for his party's clouded political history.    I'm glad to say voting in this election is one decision I won't have to make.  

For those who can read and understand Spanish, I offer the following two links which I think provide interesting and introspective information on two current topics about Panama.  The first is a post made by Ruben Blades, Panamanian ex-presidential candidate, Panamanian ex-Minister of Tourism, and world-renown musician and songwriter.  He writes about the upcoming elections and discusses his concerns about politicians and politics in Panama.

The second is a video documentary about the controversial Cinta Costera III, and is designed to focus the viewer's attention on the ecological, emotional, social, and historical fallout to the areas affected by its construction.  I found myself sympathetic to the lament, but swayed as well by what could be seen as a clean -up and improvement to the way things have been.  The film created a lot of ambivalence for me.

I started this post two days prior to election, but now it's less than 48 hours away. It will be intriguing to see what the outcome is, and how Panama's history and democracy will be affected in the not-so-distant future. Will it revert to a benevolent dictatorship?  Will it become a democracy for the rich with an incapacity to handle the enormous debt that has been generated in the last 5 years?  Will it revert back to a third world state and mentality with renewed social programs but little progress? Or will there be an outcome unlike any of the above?    I could be completely off base in all my lay theories and thoughts, but the winning candidate in this election could be significantly more important than in some prior elections, and I could be making some personal decisions about my permanency in Panama based on the outcome.