As the calendar counts down to Election Day…

who gains
Ricardo Martinelli’s tabloid La Critica made this comparison and asked who gains. If there was a purpose for the alteration it would seem to hurt Ricardo Lombana in early online voting, putting him in the “Siberia” of the middle right-hand side of the ballot rather than the easier-to-find bottom right-hand corner and outside of the proper numerical order. The Electoral Tribunal and its contractors are into a circular finger-point process, but it’s a trivial number of voters who would be affected.

Whether or not Mulino is on the ballot is still up in the air, and…

by Eric Jackson

With five of nine Supreme Court magistrates taking off for vacations and the case of whether or not to disqualify José Raúl Mulino from the May 5 ballot still pending, tension builds.

By the plain black letters of both the constitution and the election law, Mulino doesn’t qualify because he’s not on a slate with a presidential and vice-presidential nominee and because he did not run in any presidential primary. It would be said that this is a special situation, but it’s not as if the candidate who won the RM party’s primary was on the ballot but suddenly died. In more than 60 briefs submitted to the court, the primacy of democracy and the machinations and faults of fugitive convicted criminal Ricardo Martinelli are variously argued.

In any case, the magistrates have suplentes and even if they don’t it has been known to call up lower-court judges to fill in. Plus, Penal Bench magistrate Ariadne García has cut short her vacation so now there is a five-member majority of the high court’s nine principal magistrates in the country. But the the Thursday court session has been called off. There can be a special rescheduling but it looks like the next regular session is on Monday, April 29, six days before the voting.

Add the time and possible problems of reprinting and distributing ballots with Mulino excluded, and that’s one consideration. Add the possible wrath of jurists unwilling to let Ricky Martinelli run out the calendar on them, perhaps. It’s a mess.

Meanwhile in the irregularly scheduled work of mostly untested pollsters that has been published, the trends are tending to show a drop in Mulino’s support and in his absence a close race between Ricardo Lombana and Rómulo Roux. Newer and better polls should be appearing shortly, but things are in flux as they usually are at this point in an election year.

Is it an international issue? Martinelli’s newspapers — purchased with stolen government money — suggest that the OAS or other international bodies are concerned about the situation. Perhaps Spain, which has a warrant out for Martinelli’s arrest, or other European Union members, have reasons to meddle. The United States, which has called Martinelli corrupt and shunned his stand-in Mulino, surely also has reasons why it might meddle. But the greater powers are laying off of this Panamanian election, or at least appear to be doing so.

Leave it to Nicaragua to meddle, by giving Martinelli both asylum in their diplomatic mission here and the ability to make political statements, run an election campaign and conduct media battles from that refuge from a more than 10-year prison sentence. The allowance of such activities violates international law and the Cortizo administration has complained about it:

letter to nicas
Where might this all lead? Hard to say. Why would the Nicaraguans take Martinelli in? That’s even harder to say.

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