Politics of Panama

The politics of Panama take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic with multi-party system, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government.

Executive power is exercised by the president. Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The branches are according to Panama's Political Constitution of 1972, reformed by the Actos Reformatorios of 1978 and the Acto Constitucional of 1983, united in cooperation and limited through a system of checks and balances.

Three independent organizations with clearly defined responsibilities are found in the constitution: the Comptroller General of the Republic has the responsibility to manage public funds; the Electoral Tribunal has the responsibility to guarantee liberty, transparency, and the efficacy of the popular vote; and the Ministry of the Public oversees interests of State and of the municipalities.

The USAID website ranks Panama at 0.83/1 for democracy, but only 0.5/1 for political corruption.[1]

Executive branch

Office Name Party Since
President Laurentino Cortizo Democratic Revolutionary Party July 1, 2019
Vice President José Gabriel Carrizo Democratic Revolutionary Party July 1, 2019

The Executive Branch includes a president and one vice-president. The president and vice-president are elected on a single ballot for a five-year term by direct popular vote. Presidents are not allowed to immediately run for re-election, but can run again after waiting five years.

State Ministers

  • Minister of Agricultural and Livestock Development: Enrique Carles
  • Minister of Canal Affairs: Arístides Royo
  • Minister of Commerce and Industries: Augusto R. Arosemena Moreno
  • Minister of Economy and Finance: Dulcidio de la Gardia
  • Minister of Education: Maruja Gorday de Villalobos[2]
  • Ministry of Environment: Milciades Concepción
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Alejandro Ferrer
  • Minister of Health: Rosario Turner[3]
  • Minister of Housing: Mario Etchelecu
  • Minister of Government: María Luisa Romero
  • Minister of the Presidency: Álvaro Alemán
  • Minister of Public Security: Alexis Bethancourt
  • Minister of Public Works: Ramón Arosemena
  • Minister of Social Development: Alcibiades Vásquez
  • Minister of Work and Labor Development: Luis Ernesto Carles
  • Minister of The Woman: Juana Herrera Arauz
  • Attorney General: Kenia Isolda Porcell Alvarado
  • Manager, National Bank of Panama: Rolando Julio de León Alba
  • Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York: Laura E. Flores H.

(Source: CIA World Factbook: World Leaders, Panama)

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch consists of a unicameral National Assembly (Asamblea Nacional), composed of 71 members elected to five-year terms from single- and multi-seat constituencies.


The Judicial Organ administers justice in a permanent, free and expeditious manner. It comprises the Supreme Court of Justice, the Tribunals, and the judges established by law, according to the constitution of Panama (title VII, chapter 1).


An autonomous Electoral Tribunal supervises voter registration, the election process, and the activities of political parties. Everyone over the age of 18 are required to vote, although those who fail to do so are not penalized.

Political Culture

The dominant political parties in Panamanian history have been the PRD and the Panameñista (former Arnulfista Party). These parties were founded by charismatic and strong political enemies, Omar Torrijos (PRD)—the deceased father of the previous president, Martín Torrijos—and Arnulfo Arias (Panameñista/Arnulfista), late husband of the ex-president, Mireya Moscoso. Even though these leaders died years ago, their aura is revived by their followers, and they are present in every election.


Panamanians have been working to root out the after-effects of several decades of military rule since the country's return to democracy in 1989.[4] In 2020, it was reported that Panama loses approximately 1% of its GDP every year to corruption, including government corruption.[5] However, the country is working to improve its democracy, and in July 2020, two ex-presidents of the country (Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela) were questioned over their involvement in the Odebrecht bribery scandal.[6][7] Martinelli was eventually released after being found not guilty, but was subsequently re-arrested on charges of money laundering.[8] Two sons of Martinelli (Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli) were also charged with bribery and money laundering by the United States.[9] In August 2020, Panama joined forces with the United States to form a joint task force to root out money laundering.[10]

However, despite the work being done, much still remains to be accomplished, and the International Trade Administration notes that corruption remains the largest hurdle for businesses wanting to invest in the country.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "IDEA". idea.usaid.gov. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  2. ^ "Autoridades | Ministerio de Educación". meduca.gob.pa. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020.
  3. ^ "Ministra de Salud, Rosario Turner, reafirma compromiso de la construcción del Hospital del Niño". July 16, 2019.
  4. ^ Cuffe, Sandra. "Corruption concerns cast shadow over Panama's elections". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  5. ^ "¡Basta Ya! How pandemic-related corruption calls for a new social contract in Panama". Atlantic Council. November 10, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  6. ^ Sleinan, Julett Pineda. "Two Panama Ex-Presidents Accused in the Odebrecht Corruption Scandal". www.occrp.org. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  7. ^ "Former Panama presidents face corruption charges". France 24. July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  8. ^ Moreno, Elida (February 27, 2021). "Ex-Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli's aircraft seized in Guatemala". Reuters. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  9. ^ Moreno, Sofia Menchu, Elida (July 7, 2020). "U.S. charges ex-Panama president's sons with bribery, money laundering". Reuters. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  10. ^ Reuters Staff (August 17, 2020). "United States partners with Panama on money laundering task force". Reuters. Retrieved July 14, 2021. {{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  11. ^ "Panama - Market Challenges". Official Website of the International Trade Administration. January 8, 2021. Retrieved July 14, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading

  • Harding, Robert C. (2001). Military Foundations of Panamanian Politics. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7658-0075-6.
  • Harding, Robert C. (2006). The History of Panama. Greenwood Publishing. ISBN 978-0-313-33322-4.
  • Mellander, Gustavo A., Mellander, Nelly, Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN 1-56328-155-4. OCLC 42970390. (1999)
  • Mellander, Gustavo A., The United States in Panamanian Politics: The Intriguing Formative Years." Danville, Ill.: Interstate Publishers. OCLC 138568. (1971)

External links

  • National Assembly of Panama
  • Presidency of Panama
  • Panama - Government and society | Britannica
  • Panama: Freedom in the World 2021 Country Report
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