Panama: The Punishment Vote for an Anti-popular Government Triumphed

By Olmedo Peluche on May 9, 2024

PRD candidate José Gabriel Carrizo

It seems to us that the negative and defeatist readings of the electoral results of Sunday, May 5, 2024, are essentially wrong.

For certain analysts, the interpretation of the vote is that the people inclined towards a right-wing, corrupt and fascistic project. I believe that it is necessary to differentiate between the candidacies, their programs and the imaginary with which voters have gone to the polls.

The electoral result should be read in a positive light: the people came en masse to express their repudiation of the government of Laurentino Cortizo, his vice-president and presidential candidate, José Gabriel Carrizo, and the ruling party embodied in the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). The citizenry gave a phenomenal beating to a right-wing, anti-popular, anti-national government, at the service of the bankers and the US embassy, headed by Cortizo.

The electoral result, the worst in the history of the once powerful PRD, clearly shows that the citizens turned out en masse to vote, the highest percentage of participation in decades, to cast a PUNISHMENT VOTE to the government responsible for the social, economic, environmental and political disaster the country is in.

The people PUNISHED Cortizo, Carrizo and the PRD for 5 years of misery aggravated by the disastrous management of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, bankruptcy of small and medium enterprises, for the generalization of unemployment and informality, for the crisis in public health and education, for the lack of water in huge areas of the country, for the lousy electricity and garbage collection services.

The people gave the deserved PUNISHMENT to a corrupt government that tried to give away the natural and mineral wealth to First Quantum M., to a government that has doubled the public debt without showing any projects, and that now wants to condemn us to “austerity” to pay its bankers and financiers friends. The people PUNISHED a corrupt government that has aggravated the crisis of the Social Security Fund and pensions, and that refused to give a raise to pensioners.

The Panamanian people expressed this electoral punishment through various candidacies. The sectors most affected by unemployment and poverty punished the government by voting for José R. Mulino and his promise of “more chenchen”. Sectors of the middle classes expressed their punishment by voting for Ricardo Lombana. The youth who fought against the mining contract expressed their punishment by voting for Vamos candidates, which explains their enormous electoral success. The Torrijistas and Perredistas fed up with this government punished by voting for Martín Torrijos or Zulay Rodríguez. A more conservative fraction punished by voting for Rómulo Roux and Panameñismo.

A popular vanguard that fought in these years against the impositions of the Cortizo-Carrizo-PRD government, expressed its punishing vote with the Maribel Gordón – Richard Morales ticket, which doubled the amount of votes obtained by previous electoral proposals of the Panamanian left, consolidating a well-structured alternative at national level with a great future.

Of course, the majority of the electorate wrongly chose to cast their punishment through candidates who, because they belong to various factions of the national bourgeoisie, will actually act against the expectations of the people and against their own social and economic interests of the popular classes. But that is the problem of how people’s political consciousness is formed, based on common sense that matures on the basis of trial and error, not on the basis of completely logical or scientific reasoning.

How long will the “honeymoon” with the Mulino government by a sector of the Panamanian people last? We believe that it will not last long, because the economic crisis and the neoliberal prescriptions will soon put it on a collision course against the people. But there is another significant part of the population, two thirds, that did not vote for Mulino and identifies him as a corrupt fraction of the national bourgeoisie led by the nefarious Ricardo Martinelli. That majority sector of the citizenry is already opposing Mulino before he sits in the chair.

What role will Lombana and the independent deputies of Vamos play in the next period when the reforms to the Fund or deciding the future of the Donoso mine, or the dismissal of public employees begin to be considered? It will be seen. But it is clear that the consistent struggle against neoliberal measures leads to a rupture with the capitalist and corrupt political system.

The global crisis of capitalism, its increasingly undemocratic features, to impose even more social inequality in the country and the world, do not give much room to sustain illusions that this will be solved without struggles and simply because “the best are elected”.

For this reason, the path opened by the presidential candidacy of Professor Maribel Gordón and Richard Morales has a future, because the need to fight for a Dignified Life will continue to be valid for the Panamanian people. The unitary, democratic and patient work is giving results, little by little, but inexorably.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – Buenos Aires