Presidential Debate in Panama Creates More Questions Than Answers

Panama is preparing for presidential elections in May 2014, and only four months from polling day, the campaigns are ratcheting up the rhetoric and everybody is breathing political propaganda.

There will be four candidates from official parties and for the first time in history, three independent candidates are running.

On January 20, 2014, the second presidential debate was held, with three of the seven candidates participating, calling attention for the second time to the absence of the government party candidate (Democratic Change) José Domingo Arias.

The candidates participating in the debate were Juan Carlos Navarro for the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) [es], Juan Carlos Varela for the Panameñista Party, and Genaro López [es] for the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD in Spanish).

The debate had a great impact on social networks, where Panamanians went to share their opinions and to vent.

The humorous news account El Gallinazo created the Hashtag #Preguntaspaldebate [es] where Panamanian netizens tossed out ideas for questions that should be asked during the debate.

The government party took advantage of social networks to make excuses for their candidate, saying that he would participate in debates organized by the Electoral Tribunal (ET), even though this same party voted against a bill proposing mandatory debates organized by the ET.

Have the Electoral Tribunal organize debates. Don’t let the media and interested unions impose their hidden agenda. Fairness and transparency.

Blogger Erik Simpson comments that the absence of the official candidate shows that José Domingo Arias can’t even think for himself, let alone govern:

He doesn’t dare face Panamanians in the debates but he thinks he can lead Panama. If he can’t even back up his presidential bid, how will he lead.

But for Cesar Urrutia the proposals of the candidates who attended the debate are nothing but a carbon copy of the current government:

For the most part, their ideas are carbon copies of José Domingo Arias, more utopian plans, out of touch with our reality.

El Gallinazo shared a photo in which the current government candidate is represented as Wilson, the volleyball from the film Cast Away.

Which of the four is winning the debate?

The same site created a humorous video [es] about the debate:

And for most Panamanians, the debate lacked substance. Candidates seemed to answer whatever they wanted in the face of rather succinct questions. Elviz says:

The Panamanian debates are like you ask me something and I answer whatever the hell I want!

Gina Lee comments wryly on how candidate Genaro López expresses himself:

Genaro is like Gollum and Smeagol…the man always speaks of himself in the plural. “We think….” “We say….”

Chris Fawcett asks what the point was of the “debate” that took place on the evening of January 20:

If they ask you a question and your answer has nothing to do with the question, is that a “debate”?

RPC Radio, who organized the event, created hashtags where people could vote yes or no for each candidate. The winner of the evening according to the station was Juan Carlos Navarro, who garnered 51.7% of the “vote”:

These are the results for each candidate during the 1st presidential debate.

A few months before they have to choose a new president, Panamanians seem undecided given the shortage of options. El Ñeque Noticias's account concluded on a humorous note, which however could sum up the feelings of a large number of Panamanians.

Panamanians agree that if the elections were today, they would ask Uruguay to send Pepe Mujica to run Panama.

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