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Leis, The fifth ballot

Martínez-Piva, Trade talks and labor issues
Jackson, Recall season
Martin, The world's protected areas
Weisbrot, The US on its Labor Day
Bernal, Constituent Assembly and civic participation

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Constituent assembly and participation

by Miguel Antonio Bernal


Without participation, democracy doesn't exist. It appears that the principal exponents of the local plutocracy didn't want this affirmation to be understood, given that they were content with the standard structure that served the "bossocracy." Today, most of them are fugitives from the constituent assembly. The right of every human being to participate, that is, to influence with their choices and decisions the course of public affairs in their community, of their country, has the same importance as freedom of expression, public assembly or demonstration. Being the fundamental right that it is, it calls for all the organs of the state to give it top priority. However, that's not so in our social structure, and the damages and negative consequences of this are ever greater, at all levels.

In our time it has become necessary to point out again and again that there isn't, and can't be, democracy without participation. And democracy, something that the crooks and those who are against constituent assembly don't like, only develops, grows and strengthens in a democratic framework of freedom and transparency.

Panama and Panamanians, as well as those who live among us in our country, have to create and institutionalize a new style of democracy by way of a constituent process that gives full space and participation for all. In this new style of participatory pluralist democracy, the citizen is called upon take a more active part in the governance of the country, through diverse and multiple means of election, selection, consultation, control, vigilance and initiative.

Participation and constituent assembly necessarily go hand-in-hand because both are civic instruments that contain our inherent rights to be able to exercise power as absolute sovereigns over the organs of the state, as real and principal actors in the definition of a state in which democracy can be, in an effective manner, the system of government, political regime and quality way of life for all members of the community.

These days in Panama, we find multiple obstacles along the paths and roads of participation and repairs that we must necessarily make to overcome them. The partisan system, as well as the leaderships of many groups of every sort, amuse themselves by avoiding the debate over the necessity of a constituent assembly, given that they fear the civic participation that goes along with it. They flee conversation and discussion of the subject, to take refuge in their reactionary positions of wanting to do everything for the people, but not to let the people do anything for themselves.

Some citizens fall into the trap of abstaining from participation as the result of frustrations and disenchantments that lead to political skepticism. There are also those who don't participate due to laziness or egotism, as well as those who marginalize themselves out of mistrust or fear. There arise, therefore, certain questions. How to get those who make up a passive majority to commit to their civic rights and duties? How to transform the skeptics, the uninformed, the negligent, the egotists and the timid into a participatory majority, that takes part in the decisions that affect them? How to make a passive and indecisive majority to stop being such?

The answer to these questions is the constituent process, whose dynamic would help to eradicate of the old practices of exclusion, to avoid the accelerating growth of concessions and privileges, to impede the deal-making processes for corruption and impunity and against justice. This is so --- and the fugitives from the constituent assembly know it --- because the constituent process would allow the teaching, propagation and practice of democracy with civic participation, which would allow the extraordinary to become the commonplace.

Panamanians are already called on May 2, 2004 to elections for president, legislators, mayors and representantes. We demand to be able to exercise our right to participation through the inclusion of the "fifth ballot," that all citizens be the ones to decide whether or not there will be a national constituent assembly as a mechanism to fully, democratically and really be able to influence and decide the course of public affairs in Panama. We demand of the candidates for all elective positions a clear and public pronouncement about the right to participation, about the constituent assembly. Teach them that they must serve us before we elect them.



Also in this section:
Leis, The fifth ballot
Martínez-Piva, Trade talks and labor issues
Jackson, Recall season
Martin, The world's protected areas
Weisbrot, The US on its Labor Day
Bernal, Constituent Assembly and civic participation


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