Seminar on the Independence of Electoral Justice in Panama: Final Report

Introduction

IFES, the Panamanian Electoral Tribunal and the Panamanian non-governmental organization Fundacion para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana organized a Seminar on the Independence of Electoral Justice December 6-7,2001 in Panama City. (See Agenda, attachment 1). The seminar served two purposes: 1) to share information on electoral justice in Panama and 2) to recommend improvements to the electoral justice process. Key individuals influential in the electoral justice process made presentations on the accomplishments and challenges of the Panamanian electoral justice system. Speakers included Erasmo Pinilla, President of the Electoral Tribunal, Gerardo Solis, Electoral Prosecutor, Lina Vega Abad from Fundacion para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana, Miguel Antonio Bernal from Instituto de Estudios Politicos e Intemacionales, and Carlos Lee from FETV Canal 5. Presentations were followed by questions and discussion. Pinilla set a constructive tone by stressing that while the Electoral Tribunal enjoys a high degree of independence and public respect, a number of improvements should be made to further strengthen the institution. He and other participants agreed that the frank discussion engendered by the Seminar among electoral experts and informed observers from a broad spectrum of society was helpful to the Tribunal in continuing institutional development and to enhancing the transparency of Panamanian democracy more generally. IFES Americas Deputy Director, Fernando Mark Rondon and Latin America Rule of Law Advisor Alvaro Herrero helped conduct the activity.

Prior to the seminar, a survey (attachment 2) was distributed to all participants, providing them an understanding of the main subject areas of the seminar. The results were tabulated and used as the basis of the second day's workshops, seeking proposals for improving the electoral justice system. Discussions focused mainly on factors affecting independence of the Electoral Tribunal, including budgetary authority, method for selection of judges, and the relationship between civil society organizations, political parties and the Electoral Tribunal.

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