They had vote-buying in ancient Roman elections, too. And bread and circuses to keep the plebeians and the slaves from rising up. Latin America’s tradition of military dictatorships? That’s a direct descendent of the Roman praetorian tradition. In 1972, Panama’s dictatorship gave us a constitution that centralized power in an executive and bought off all political forces that could be bought by giving them shares of political patronage. In recent decades that old patronage system has been enhanced by graft involving public works contracts with multinational corporations. But the games are old and most Panamanians receive no benefit from them. Which will not stop people from standing in line to get a cheaper Christmas ham. Ancient engraving depicting a Roman election.
An urgent need
by Miguel Antonio Bernal
The first five months of the PRD administration and its actions outside the Constitution and the Law, show how necessary and urgent it is to convene a constitutional process with full citizen participation.
The constituent process is, above all, an inclusive process, in which the Constitution is the means or instrument to make the exercise of political power, through citizen participation, rational, real and effective.
This constitutional process must give life to the legal feeling and the constitutional feeling that, in turn, will bring out and act on the constituent power, that is, the popular sovereignty. That’s what the Constitution can do through citizen participation and action. It’s the only way of transforming the current state of the State.
Also, the constituent process, by activating “militant citizenship,” will promote the dialogues, debates and activities that will leave the spectator population behind and open the necessary channels for a participatory citizenship.
The constituent process, so feared by lovers of the “status quo” and “change so that nothing changes,” should serve as an institutional motivator, rational controller and social buffer:
1. Institutional motivator of the restorative transformation that is needed for all our society, of the institutions, of the procedures, of the contaminated and vitiated organs of the State, of the ethical gaps that increase. of deciding with the participation of all and without exclusions, what country we want and how we want it. The way to do that is to make a new Constitution.
2. Rational controller of the exercise of political power, to avoid their increasingly irrational actions, due to the absence of citizen control, whose power is absent from the daily exercise of public administration. That would give us full constitutional rule.
3. Social shock absorber, to prevent the repressive violence of the power brokers monopolize the government and promote its actions against our democratic freedoms, as we see in the militarization of our way of life. The alternative is power constituted by the people, rather than by an elite few.
Starting a constituent process is urgent, as well as necessary. That task belongs to those of us who believe in democratic values and the hope of better days for all.
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