09 de Dic de 2022


Election knives are sharpened

The knives are out and politicians reaching for the presidential orb are slashing at each other in all directions. Some religious leader...

The knives are out and politicians reaching for the presidential orb are slashing at each other in all directions. Some religious leaders have called for a more dignified election campaign, but in the run for power, niceties quickly fall by the wayside. Look for some poisoned darts from the Herrera campaign which, according to a recent poll seems to be in free fall. “If the election was held today, Martinelli, would be president” said a headline in Panama America.

Some PRD supporters were heard to mutter that running a supermarket is not the best qualification for running a country. They should hark back to World War I when “Little Willie” the German Kaiser described Britain as: “A nation of shopkeepers”. The shopkeepers prevailed.

There are many examples throughout history of derogatory expressions being turned around to the discomfort of the initiator. When in World War II, Britain’s 8th Army in North Africa were scathingly described as Desert Rats, they adopted the name and proudly wore a rat as a shoulder badge. They went on to defeat the Afrika Corps led by Germany’s greatest Field Marshall, Erwin Rommel.

So when an opponent gleefully described Balbina Herrera as “The worst presidential candidate in the history of the country”, he must pray that the words don’t turn around and bite him. Should the “worst candidate” win, what will that say about the voters, or about “the best candidate?”

Balbina on the other hand may be suffering from complacency when she claims that the big red white and blue PRD party machine will bring victory. She should take a look northwards, where pundits confidently said the Republican Party’s renowned get-out-the-vote operation would propel John McCain to victory, rather than the shadows of history. Just as well, imagine cheerleader Sarah Palin as a stand-in president in the present economic crisis with “shop your way to prosperity” as the rallying call, presuming that you shopped in the right high end stores.

Does Panama harbor hecklers? If it does they are not much in evidence, and rarely reported. There are thousands of famous ripostes as political candidates of the past stood on the hustings and faced the crowd. There were no polite lines of voters (usually party hacks) holding carefully scripted and vetted questions.

My favorite response is a matter of fiction from a Peter Sellers record “Party Political Broadcast.” The master of mimicry was making a speech in the tones of then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan. When a voice from the crowd yelled: “Wot about the workers?” the speaker replied: “What about the workers indeed sir” and blithely continued with his political nonentities.

Here’s a question for the two leading contestants in Panama’s presidential campaign. “Why are residents of Bella Vista, San Francisco and Calidonia being asked to underwrite the cost of building the Cinta Costera (Coastal Strip)?”The answer: “Why indeed sir (madam)? There’s nothing new in politics.

TRICK QUESTION. Which Panamanian “industry” has the largest citizen participation. Forget the Canal, agriculture, construction and all the other contributors to GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The answer is “gambling”. Whether it be the 25 cent Loteria ticket, the race track, or casinos, the country is addicted to gambling. With the Lottery and its twice a week TV and radio broadcasts to encourage participation in a hidden tax on the poor, a whole mysticism has grown up as people gamble away their earnings on their birth dates, wedding anniversaries, apartment or social security numbers or refer to a book analyzing their dreams.

In most cases the expenditure is small, and provides at least a little excitement on Wednesday and Sunday.