Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot based on universal and equal suffrage. Naturalized citizens may not hold specified categories of elective office, such as the presidency.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In 2014 voters chose Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez as president in national elections that independent observers considered generally free and fair. Elected at the same time were 71 national legislators, 77 mayors, 648 local representatives, and seven council members.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The law requires new political parties to meet strict membership and organizational standards to gain official recognition and participate in national campaigns. Electoral reforms passed in May 2017 require that political parties obtain the equivalent of 2 percent of the total votes cast to maintain legal standing, a reduction from 4 percent. The Revolutionary Democratic Party, Panamenista Party, Democratic Change Party, and Popular Party complied with the requirement. During the year the Electoral Tribunal granted legal status to new political groups registered with the Electoral Tribunal, including the Broad Front for Democracy, the Alliance Party (Alianza), and the Independent Social Alternative Party after they demonstrated compliance with electoral requirements. The Electoral Tribunal provided oversight of internal party elections.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.
In August the National Secretariat of Science, Technology, and Innovation released a study in coordination with the Catholic University of Santa Maria Antigua. The study, titled Gender Inequality for Women in Access to Elected Office, showed that female candidates for elected office had only a 2 percent chance to win election. Research showed that from 1945 to 2014, only 67 women were elected to the National Assembly, compared with 764 men. Researchers concluded that contributing factors included cultural barriers, unequal social opportunities, a lack of mechanisms to equalize effectively internal political opportunity, and unequal access to campaign funds.