The election of yesterday (May 2, 2009) was impressive. Unlike times past, there were no major disturbances to mar the overall outcome. A few minor scuffles but overall it was a well organized and somber event. The polls, (mostly schools) opened at seven in the morning and closed at four in the afternoon. Although they used paper ballots, the Electoral Tribune announced that Ricardo Martinelli was the new president elect at six thirty in the evening with a bit over forty percent of the ballots counted. That is impressive! Of course it was not a tight race. Balbina Herrerra only garnered thirty six percent of the vote as opposed to Martinelli's sixty one percent. Still, to have over forty percent of the votes tallied in two and a half hours speaks very highly of the Electoral Tribune.
I headlined this as "the cardboard election" because the entire voting set-up was made of cardboard. The signs outside, directing the voters, were mostly cardboard with a few written on butcher paper. Same with the signs inside the voting room. The voting booths were three sided cardboard boxes and the three ballot boxes were cardboard boxes put together with masking tape. One of the major tasks of the election officials was to burn the excess ballots to avoid any chicanery. This was done as the personnel who ran the voting rooms cast their ballots. The voting process I witnessed, a few blocks from my home, was very orderly. Old people and the handicapped were helped by the election staff and anyone else nearby. Patients in hospitals were helped to vote, inmates in prison were allowed to vote and of course, even the police and sitting authorities exercised their rights.
There were many international observers in Panama to monitor this election. In addition there was internal monitoring force (I believe it is part of the Electoral Tribune). There may be a few cries of "Foul" but so far, none have surfaced.
Panama, so far, has escaped the swine flu epidemic. Since there are no reported cases in the country, there was no restriction on public gatherings. This helped immensely. Panama experienced a large voter turn out; almost twice the percentage of a US national election.
Congratulations to all...it was a great to observe democracy at work.
As a footnote, I applaud TVN-2. Their coverage was supurb!