Panama is a republic whose president has
great powers. The constitution that guarantees civil and
political freedoms and rights is from 1976, but was
written on pervasive in 1983. The political parties are
built around people rather than around political
The president is both head of state and government
and appoints his own government. Direct elections to the
presidential post are held every five years and a former
president can run for re-election only when two terms of
office have passed. The 71 members of the Legislative
National Assembly (asamblea nacional)
are also elected for five years in general elections,
which are held at the same time as the presidential
election. Voting rights apply from the age of 18.
Total population and chart of Panama for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The country is divided into nine provinces and three
autonomous indigenous areas, comarcas indígenas.
All are governed by governors appointed by the
president. Two more comarcas are available at the
municipal level, in each province. The 75 municipalities
are governed by directly elected mayors.
Prior to the elections, constituencies often consist
of several parties. These alliances are rarely
The traditionally largest party is the
Revolutionary Democratic Party (Partido
Revolucionario Democrático, PRD), which
was founded by General Omar Torrijos in 1978. The now
Social Democratic PRD had the government in 1994–1999
and 2004–2009. The 2009 elections meant a severe setback
for the PRD, which was accused of corruption and
appeared to be divided. The party lost just over a third
of its mandates in the National Assembly, but at the
same time took home 62 of 75 mayoral positions. In the
2014 election, the PRD was relegated to second place in
the National Assembly, but it remained by far the
largest in terms of the number of party members. In the
2019 presidential election, PRD candidate Laurentino
The biggest in the 2014 election was
Democratic change (Cambio Democrático,
CD), a party founded in 1998 by the successful
businessman and multi-millionaire Ricardo Martinelli.
The 2009 election was the party's breakthrough, the
number of seats in the National Assembly tripled and
Martinelli won the presidential election by a large
margin. In 2014, the CD lost presidential power and
Martinelli was indicted after his resignation for
corruption and eavesdropping. He fled to the United
States but was extradited in 2018 and brought to trial.
In August 2019, he was released from suspicion.
The Panamist Party (Partido
Panameñista, PPA) was formerly called
the Arnulfo Party (Partido Arnulfista), among other
things when it was in office 1999-2004. A predecessor
was founded by the right-wing populist and nationalist
Arnulfo Arias Madrid as early as the 1930s. Just before
the 2009 election, the Panamist Party withdrew its
presidential candidate and instead joined behind the
favorite tipped Ricardo Martinelli. But in the 2014
election, the Panamist Party took home the victory
through Juan Carlos Varela, who during the previous term
has been on a collision course with Martinelli (see
A new left-wing party, the Broad Democracy
Front (Frente Amplio de Democracia,
FAD), was launched in 2011 and registered in
2013 as a political party after collecting 64,000
signatures. Behind the party lies the influential trade
union Frente nacional por los derechos económicos y
sociales (Frenadeso). However, the FAD, who calls
himself the country's only true left-wing party, got no
seats in the National Assembly.
Criticism of monitoring stations
The first of eleven planned stations for aviation and maritime traffic
monitoring along the coasts is inaugurated. According to the government, it is a
full Panamanian initiative to counter the smuggling of drugs, weapons and
people, but a loud opposition claims that the United States is involved. Student
protests against the monitoring stations mean that Panama's largest university
may be temporarily closed.
Ex-president charged with crime
An investigation is launched against former president Ernesto Pérez
Balladares (1994-1999) who is suspected of money laundering.
Martinelli takes over as president
Ricardo Martinelli takes over as Panama's new president.
Martinelli wins the presidential election
Ricardo Martinelli, candidate for Democratic change (CD) wins the
presidential election with 60 percent of the vote. The dominant party
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) candidate Balbina Herrera gets 37.5
percent. The remaining just over 2 percent goes to Guillermo Endara, who was
president from 1989 to 1994 and is now a candidate for a new party he founded.
The current parliamentary elections result in 26 mandates for the PRD, 22 for
the Panamist Party, 14 for CDs and the remainder for small parties.