Martinelli kicked off the ballot

Don Ricky
Ricardo Martinelli, back when he could give himself uniforms and medals.

Magistrates oust Ricardo Martinelli from
the ballots for mayor and legislator

by Eric Jackson

The Electoral Tribunal, with the one magistrate appointed by Ricardo Martinelli dissenting, has disqualified Ricardo Martinelli from running for mayor of Panama City and for legislator from the capital’s multi-member Circuit 8-8.

The original challenges were brought on the grounds that Martinelli, who now sleeps at the El Renacer Penitentiary near Gamboa, which is in Colon province, and for purposes of avoiding and then limiting the scope of his extradition from the United States calls a mansion in Miami his residence, does not meet the residency requirements for that office. Up and down the electoral court system the case jumped away from the basic facts of residency, first into interpretations of what the residency requirement means and then quickly in to procedure. Lower electoral judges ruled on procedure, holding that to challenge Martinelli’s residency a party would have had to make that motion well before it was known that the former president was seeking elected offices.

However, having first brushed aside Martinelli’s attempt to disqualify the magistrates that he did not appoint — he would have had to disqualify one of their suplentes, too, in order to get a 2-1 majority of his appointees on the panel — magistrates Alfredo Juncá and Eduardo Valdés Escoffery argued all around the procedural points but ruled on the fact of residency to exclude the former president from the ballot. They left Martinelli’s suplente in the mayoral race, Sergio Gálvez, and the ex-president’s suplente in the legislative race, Mayín Correa, on the ballot in the places he would have occupied.

In a volatile year without much in the name of worthy polling, the ruling adds much uncertainty.

By most accounts Martinelli was the front runner for mayor, with a strong lead over the PRD’s José Luis Fábrega in second place with the rest of a crowded field way behind and many voters undecided. Now will the race be down to a man who calls himself the Sexual Buffalo (Gálvez) and a man who calls himself Tank of Gas (Fábrega)?

For the legislature there is no valid polling, the races are crowded and the public mood is unfavorable to all incumbents and in general to those identified with the political caste. Correa is no incumbent, but she is a long time politician. She has served as representante, legislator, mayor of Panama City and appointed governor of Panama province. Seeking re-election as mayor and suffering from a reputation for arrogance and caprice, she finished third behind Juan Carlos Navarro and Miguel Antonio Bernal. But as Martinelli’s appointed governor of the country’s most populous province — which was split in two by the creation of Panama Oeste on her shift — she came across as a much calmer and friendlier character. Few ever questioned the woman’s ability. But now the question comes down to the Cambio Democratico party’s fate and whether voters will see her as just another discredited political insider.

After his disqualification, Martinelli campaigns from prison for his party.

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