As Election Day approaches, glancing at the signs and flags

Coronado corner
At a Coronado corner, a convenient public spot that several campaigns have moved into with their signs and banners. As have some businesses. It can make for a fun mashup – is there some CANDIDATE or PARTY that’s offering the best price? As in the bidding for bribes starts very low? It’s probably not what they mean.

The outward signs

photos and comments by Eric Jackson

I’ve been this observer of outdoor political propaganda since years before I was old enough to vote. Then there were years in which I was a practitioner of the art itself. Along the way I have seen some results, and some frequent patterns in the meanings of sign and flag wars.

There are such things as silent majorities, but so often those are just wishful thinking.

There are sign saturation campaigns that are meant to engender defeatism among potential foes. As in “See all the money and organization I have – making a counterpoint just makes you a quixotic gadfly in everybody else’s estimation.”

Sometimes there are social or economic reasons to let the candidate put up a sign, but then to vote the other way.

There are households with multiple voters who have different opinions, and businesses with diverse customers who don’t all think alike.

Having been around the neighborhood for a few election cycles, one may recognize certain people and households as this or that. Sometimes party affiliations change, but even more frequently parties splinter, or make different alliances with other forces. This year’s a crowded field with unusual bedfellows and multiple intra-party or intra-alliance fractures. Where I live, and where I might go with my camera for whatever reason, is not necessarily representative of more than what I see.

But still….


public works
The representante of the Anton corregimiento of Juan Díaz, Carlos Fernández, is a long-time PRD incumbent who has plastered his signs and PRD flags just about everywhere. Perhaps, however, his strongest bit of outdoor propaganda is keeping highly visible public works projects underway in the public eye. As in this ongoing improvement to the local water system.


At the presidential level the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) is allies with the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA), which two parties also combine to gather a majority in the current National Assembly. However, in Juan Diaz de Anton the alliance does not hold at the corregimiento level. Here MOLIRENA is fielding its own candidate for representante, Luis Felipe Martínez, against the PRD incumbent.


Maribel and Richard
The left with a big billboard on the way to the gate at Coronado? Isn’t that the stomping grounds of the decadent and bourgeois? Consider a few things. First, the foreigners in that community don’t vote. Some dual Panamanian and something else citizens do, but the expatriates as such are non-participating observers. And how many of the Panamanians, upscale as they may be, worked and studied their way to get to a status that allowed them to afford Coronado? How many Panama-educated doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers or so on? Might their lives and upbringings, notwithstanding any stereotypes about economic determinism, make them reachable by the left by these two University of Panama faculty members? And the VP nominee, Richard Morales, was flag bearer at one of the annual Gay Pride marches. How many well-to-do gay or lesbian voters like the idea of someone who fights for their rights running for high elected office? Plus, are there many Panamanians more skeptical of our would-be Creole aristocracy than their maid and gardeners who might see this on their way to work? In any case, there it is – the Gordón / Morales campaign writ large in Coronado.


Uh huh. Panama getting into a debt crisis with austerity looming, and here the PRD’s Gaby Carrizo is promising passersby in Penonome that they will get their own homes if he becomes president. Does he presume that those at whom such ads are aimed are so poorly educated that they won’t scoff at this brazen representation? His problem will be those with little formal education who have been educated by the labor movement and others to scoff at this.


‘HOW LONG have you been working for The Allies? We have WAYS to make you talk!’ So Hollywood tends to put it. One of the fragments that has broken off of the PRD is Zulay Rodríguez Lu, whose maternal grandparents Arnulfo Arias advocated sterilizing back in the 1930s and 40s. But since when did fascist offshoots from major parties have to make any sense?


The BIG SPLIT from the PRD is that of former President Martín Torrijos, running to get his old job back on the Partido Popular – formerly the Christian Democrats – ticket. He quit the PRD, but notice the PRD flag and the PRD representante’s sign buried in the center background. This coming election stands to be unusual for the amount of ticket-splitting we are likely to see. Or so the many incongruous combinations of signs and flags suggest.


So many of the Panameñistas are saying such banal stuff on the campaign trial, but along the roads you see a lot of the combination of Rouz / Blandón signs with Panameñista flags. It will be interesting to see whether that ticket gets more votes on the Cambio Democratico or the Panameñista line. There is a sense from the sign wars that Roux’s strength, such that he has it, lies in great part on a positive public image of his running mate and a resurgence of Blandón’s Panameñista Party. 

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