Temas Especiales

26 de Sep de 2023


Questioners ease task of pols

It was billed as the great debate. Instead it became the great yawn. There was no winner. The loser was the Panamanian public deprived o...

It was billed as the great debate. Instead it became the great yawn. There was no winner. The loser was the Panamanian public deprived of a chance to find out “how” the promises emanating from both sides would be implemented. In a stiff, staged, managed, almost scripted format, where the “speeches” of the questioners sometimes seemed longer than the answers, neither candidate shone.

The PRD hopeful, Balbina Herrera, injected some warmth into her responses as she side stepped points about things that happened on her watch, or at best on her party’s watch. Did she have no voice in the inner circle debate?

Businessman Ricardo Martinelli, looked just that. He was, like the other “suits” that occasionally appeared on the TV screens, stiff and overly formal, in sharp contrast to the dancing party supporters in the park in front of Chamber of Commerce building. He never looked at his opponent and should fire the handlers who didn’t warn him about trotting forth a condescending smile (smirk) when his opponent was speaking.

He showed more spirit in post debate issues, but was never able to explain how in three years Panama would have a “metro” system, and the news that while it was being built, we would continue to be plagued by diablos rojos, did not go down well with the independent group I sat with in Café Boulevard Balboa.

The TV coverage was amateurish at best. Two blackouts on the channel we watched, and the appearance of the candidates, the introductions and the traditional hand shake were upstaged by constant re-runs of some gyrating hips in the area in front of the building, where apparently PRD supporters had pushed their way into space allocated for Martinelli flag wavers.

In the warm up period, cameras kept switching to one lonely reporter standing on a deserted Calle 50, with limited traffic moving at a pace we would all like to see on a daily basis. Was the producer out looking for coffee?

The stilted format of the debate allowed for no knockout punches, just a series of interminable clinches, with neither speaker able to produce a clear answer on how the promises were to be fulfilled and where the money was coming from.

The questions, led off by a journalist from another newspaper, were in most cases, long and laborious. They allowed the candidates ample time to refer to their notes and trot out the predictable responses. Short and tough questions would have forced the debaters to think on their feet. Instead we got previously rehearsed platitudes.

And the question arises, why were representatives of the Chamber of Commerce putting questions? Surely they represent a special interest group? There appearance was like allowing a group of lobbyists for the oil industry to ask questions during Barack Obama - John MCain debates.

If the Chamber, representing business, was involved, why not Suntracs, for the construction workers, doctors and nurses for health care, and long suffering bus passengers for transportation?

Which brings to mind a question that could have been asked when the two talking heads were mouthing their plans for moving poor citizens around town. “When was the last time either candidate rode on public transport, other than as a campaign photo op?

As a spectacle, the non-debate was a dud and, as the faithful of both parties claim victory it’s interesting to note that a group of first time voters, held a post debate “election”, Balbina came out a clear winner. So maybe, as in the Obama campaign, the pollsters missed out on the youth vote.

There could still be surprises.

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