PRD primary down to the wire
by Eric Jackson
Conventional wisdom has been that the 2019 presidential race is the Democratic Revolutionary Party’s (PRD’s) to lose. Scandals hitting all of the parties and one or a few wealthy families backing an independent alternative might change that equation, but on the other hand it seems that the Electoral Tribunal is representing the parties rather than the nation and makes little pretense of neutrality. That would apply both against independents and within the parties by rulings that disfavor anyone who might rock to boat. Those include the rejection of most voters’ signatures on petitions for independent Miguel Antonio Bernal and repeated citations of PRD insurgent candidate Zulay Rodríguez. Out and about in society, there the #NoALaReelección cry, which to the extent that is effective might disfavor anyone now holding a seat in the legislature but the identifiable members of the political caste in general. But within the PRD? Probably those anti-establishment sympathies are not so strong. However, veteran activists’ fear of those who would vote that way probably would be a factor in the choice of standard bearer.
Can you throw out a contrived non-random “instant poll” like a political sophisticate would? Can you take into account that a PRD internal election is a small universe of voters, whose opinions might be volatile over a short primary campaign? Do those things and know that the only remotely serious polling, by a not well known firm called Stratmark Consultores, was taken in mid-August. It had former agriculture minister Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo with a little more than half the vote, followed by legislator Zulay Rodríguez, former Panama City mayor Juan Carlos Navarro, former president Ernesto “Toro” Pérez Balladares and the rest of the crowded field with insignificant support.
Right after the poll’s publication Navarro dropped out, throwing his support to Pérez Balladares — but most of Navarro’s key supporters endorsed Cortizo instead.
Zulay Rodríguez has been the most active in the social media and has been making special efforts to reach certain ethnic communities — Chinese (which she is on her mother’s side), Afro-descended (including in the West Indian diaspora in the United States) and indigenous, picking up some noteworthy endorsements in the politically fractious Ngabe-Bugle Comarca. She started out as the strident anti-immigrant candidate and has disavowed none of that, but now she’s talking more about being against taxes and against plea bargains in exchange for becoming a prosecution witness. Lately she is railing against both the Electoral Tribunal and the party establishment.
Toro Pérez Balladares is campaigning on nostalgia for effective government. Although his was a prematurely lame duck presidency when he failed in a referendum to get voters to allow him to run for a consecutive term as president, now he has come out in favor of a ban on legislators’ re-election. Stripped of his US visa after he left office, he expresses confidence in getting it back.
Nito Cortizo has all along been meeting with large and small groups of party members around the country. Did he confuse some folks and invite a bit of ridicule by starting to dye his hair in the middle of a de facto campaign that has been underway for at least two years? No matter. He is running on economic issues, expressing skepticism about neoliberal economic policies like extensive agricultural imports and the sale of those public assets for which buyers might be found.
The voting happens on Sunday, September 16. It looks like Cortizo or Rodríguez, with Pérez Balladares a distant third. But looks can deceive, especially in an opposition party’s primary.
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