Panama’s Electoral Tribunal (TE) has sent a letter to President Ricardo Martinelli asking him to veto the proposed electoral reforms approved by the National Assembly on Saturday, September 14, after 10 days of acrimonious debate.
The controversial bill introducing reforms had been widely criticized and led to demonstrations inside and outside, with violence erupting between supporters and opponents, and heavy riot police intervention. The public was banned from the legislature and the president of the Assembly introduced closure of debate. Recommendations of a committee appointed to study reforms were ignored.
The TE judges say that at least eight of the 16 articles in the reforms, initiated and pushed through by the ruling Democratic Change (CD) party, violate the constitution and are contrary to current electoral code rules. The letter says the reforms limit the ability of the TE to intervene in cases of "dirty campaigning." There have been numerous complaints in recent months about “dirty” government advertising campaigns attacking journalists and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela. During the presidential campaign, stories were circulated that the PRD party had received $6 million from convicted fraudster David Murcia. After the election it was shown that it was the CD party, founded and controlled by Martinelli that had received Murcia funding.
According to the new initiative, the electoral prosecutor will have to intervene in cases of dirty tricks and sets a 15-day deadline for action.
The judges also object to restrictions placed on candidates "that border on the unconstitutional."