Panamanian president-elect, Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, stated Monday, that the long sought-out constitutional reforms are among his priorities for the first 100 days of his administration.
“The reforms to the Constitution are important and we have to act quickly, put speed into it, and for that, we will use the document that was presented to the National Agreement Council,” Cortizo said.
Panama’s current constitution backs to 1972, and many sectors of the Central American nation have been pushing for many years to make some changes. The reforms address pressing issues including a second presidential round, the election of national legislators, a new mechanism to select judges for the Supreme Court of Justice, and a system where the State’s Prosecutor would channel anti-graft accusations in the aftermath of corruption scandals, such as the Panama Papers and Odebrecht.
The National Agreement Council made up by the private and public sector, as well as civil society, will prepare the reform package. Cortizo’s idea is “that in these months we get the document to present it to the National Assembly and be approved without modifications, as established in article 313 numeral 2 of the Constitution, in two debates to then submit it to a referendum.”
To achieve this, he needs to negotiate with the outgoing president, Juan Carlos Varela, as the first debate would have to happen with the current legislators before the next Congress comes into power on July 1. With the newly elected lawmakers, the second debate would be approved then passed on for the Executive power to call a referendum for final and popular approval.
The last constitutional reform was carried out in 2004 under the presidency of Martin Torrijos, son of Omar Torrijos. Cortizo from Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) – created in 1979 by Torrijos – won on Sunday by a margin of two percent of the votes and gaining 31 seats in the National Assembly, close to the 36 needed for a majority, which will likely mean he will have the complete support of the legislative body.