Time to rally behind President-elect Torrijos

Most Panamanians did not vote for Martín Torrijos, but after a hard-fought campaign he won a clear plurality in a four-way race, which is sufficient for victory in our electoral system. Even if runoffs were part of the Panamanian constitution, Torrijos came so close to a majority that it’s safe to say that he would have won a second round as well.

Martín Torrijos will be our next president, the only one we will have during his time in office. He will be the chief executive for both the majority who did not vote for him as well as the plurality who did. If his presidency is a success it will be good for Panama, and if it’s a failure most Panamanians will suffer.

Thus it’s time for all Panamanians to set aside partisan concerns and rally behind Martín Torrijos. For the sake of Panama, we should give him the respect, support and chance to govern that’s now his due.

However, just because the election is over doesn’t mean that it’s a time for people to leave public affairs to the professionals.

Notice that the Dichter & Neira and CID/Gallup polls commissioned by La Prensa and El Panama America respectively were approximately right, and that the four presidential candidates finished in the predicted order. Although the Mireyistas tried to manipulate voters by disseminating bogus “polls” that violated the spirit if not the letter of election rules, fraud did not play an appreciable role in the presidential election.

Yet there were several reports of vote-buying, the disappearing acta game was played at a few voting stations in David, Colon, Panama City and elsewhere, and there were disturbances at mesas in Chiriqui, La Chorrera and Chepo. There is the possibility that some of these irregularities may have affected the composition of the next Legislative Assembly or a local race here or there. MOLIRENA and the Partido Popular retained their ballot status by such narrow margins that even a few irregularities could have affected one or both of those outcomes. However, it seems that in general those whom the alleged perpetrators tried to favor lost.

And then there is the Electoral Prosecutor’s pending investigation about whether --- or more precisely, to what extent and from which government accounts --- Mireya Moscoso illegally used public funds to back her faction’s candidates.

(The Supreme Court may have just set the investigation back until after the September 1 inauguration, but that's only one more good reason to by way of legislation pack the court to override the entrenched Mireyista majority i the short term, and an even better argument to by way of a constituent assembly give the country the systemic reform of our legal system that we really need. In any event, it's not a good excuse to forget about the serious allegations.)

Regardless of whether those responsible accomplished their goals, and regardless of any and all lawyers' arguments and court decisions, all of these stories of vote buying, misuse of public funds, disturbances at the polls and disappearing actas are tales of criminal activity. All such allegations ought to be thoroughly checked out. If the facts justify it, election officials shouldn’t hesitate to prosecute and punish. There should be no partisan double standards, but the reality is that most of the vote buying allegations are about the conduct of the Mireyista camp.

The criminal element whom the Panamanian people have democratically ousted must not be allowed to return to power in five or ten years without first having answered for their actions --- not only for what they did during the campaign, but also for a sordid five-year reign of corruption and nepotism. Prosecution of the Mireyista regime’s corruption is not a matter of revenge, but rather a necessity if Martín Torrijos is to make serious progress toward his stated “zero corruption” goal.

Moreover, in the coming months Panama may see the nefarious games typical of our extended lame duck period. This is no time for relaxed vigilance, but rather a period when the huge majority who rejected Mireya Moscoso and that for which she stands should speak out if there’s any attempt at a looting binge.

The Mireyistas must not be allowed to appropriate the vacant lots in the Casco Viejo. They must not be allowed to pass out concessions at the expanded Tocumen Airport to themselves, their friends and their relatives. They must not be allowed to appoint themselves to public sinecures that will survive the September inauguration. They must not be allowed to build the Boquete-Cerro Punta road through the Volcan Baru National Park. They must not be allowed to give Coiba to developers. They must not be allowed to pass a canal expansion project that’s designed to line their own pockets. They must not be allowed to make any international deals that are against the national interests.

Let us hope that the incoming administration will be more than merely successful, and that it will live up to the name of its leading party. Be both democratic and revolutionary, Martín --- democratic enough to include those who until now have been excluded, and revolutionary enough to dispense with the crooked old ways of conducting public business.

Bear in mind...

And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

John 12:27

The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong --- but that's the way to bet it.

Damon Runyon

The "control of nature" is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man.

Rachel Carson

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