Country Report Panama March 1998 Main report

Outlook for 1998-99: Presidential campaign is starting up in earnest

With the primary elections due on March 29th and the presidential and legislative elections in May 1999, politics have taken centre stage and will remain there through much of the forecast period. The temperature has been turned up, moreover, by the attempt by the ruling Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) to change the constitution so as to allow the president, Ernesto Perez Balladares, to stand for re-election. The proposal would have to be put to public referendum, for which the date is not yet clear, and whose outcome is by no means certain. While the president was winning approval ratings as high as 46% in December 1997, polls in January showed 57% of the population against presidential re- election. Mr Balladares has yet to state his intentions, but his most recent remarks indicate his wish to carry on. Meanwhile the leading opposition parties have yet to decide on their standard bearers, but they will need to come together if they hope to defeat the government candidate.

© 1998 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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