From the National Editor. Jorge Bravo
Throughout the whole process, the 23 commissions gather periodically (each 2 or 3 months at first, then monthly) to review the advances and projections in each one of their tasks and to seek solutions for the problems found.
As a result of the last electoral reforms, two new commissions were created within PLAGEL; the Overseas Vote Commission, and the Vote in Hospitals, Elderly Homes and Prisons Commission.
For this electoral period, the 2009 PLAGEL was designed based in three stages:
1. 2007 (Institutional Preparation)
2. 2008 (Electoral Organization)
3. 2009 (Implementation)
1. Institutional Preparation or Planning Period (2007):
The Updating and Purging of the Electoral Registry Program begins (July 7, 2007), because the electoral roll by legal mandate must close a year before the elections, on April 30, 2008. Hundreds of electoral officers go to the communities, house by house nationwide to fulfill this first task.
In no other country such an intense and exhaustive purging of the electoral roll is done as in Panama, states proudly the Magistrate President of TE, Erasmo Pinilla C.
Linked to this phase the change of domicile period is opened, that gives the voters the opportunity to appear in the electoral roll of the place where they should really vote. And the fact is that according to one of the 2006 reforms to the Electoral Code, one can only vote in the place of habitual residence, and to register elsewhere (practice which contributed in the past to blemish the elections) is a crime.
In this stage, likewise, the Voting Centers Commission initiates its work to review the need to create or to eliminate voting centers and to locate them as close as possible to the residence of the voter (in Panama the domiciliary vote is practiced).
2. Electoral Organization Period (2008):
Upon concluding the updating and purging of the Electoral Roll, and upon closing the period for changes of residence (April 30, 2008), they hearings began in the month of August, for which the magistrates of the TE travel nationwide to resolve the impugnations against changes of residence that are faulty or inconsistent with the habitual residence of the voter.
In this phase the Commission of Joint Tours is in charge of planning, coordinating and monitoring the tours that Electoral Organization, the ID Department and the Civil Registry carry on in areas of difficult access to offer the services of inscription of vital facts and processing of ID.
Likewise, the Recruitment Commission, responsible for finding the human resource with the profile required in electoral matter; and the Impugnation and Appointments Commission that coordinates with the regional directorates the procedure for the challenges to the Preliminary Electoral Roll are activated.
Upon finalizing the hearings period, the Preliminary Electoral Roll is developed and is immediately deliver to the political parties by means of official act on May 28, two days before the date established in the electoral calendar.
In this second phase takes place one of the main acts of the process: the call to elections (December 3, 2008), that according to the Electoral Code must be done a month before the opening of the electoral process. At the same time and in the same act the National Board of Scrutiny is sworn in.
3. Implementation Period (2009):
In this stage the country is already in the heat of the electoral year. On January 3 the electoral process is opened with the appointment of candidates to the different positions of popular election. The coordination of the security logistics for the electoral corporations and for the transparent and peaceful development of the elections nationwide begins with the agencies of public security (the National Police, the Judicial Investigations Department -DIJ for its Spanish acronym-, the Fire Department, the National Air Service, and the National Maritime Service).
Likewise, the training to permanent and temporary electoral officials that are required to work in the voting tables and scrutiny boards on Election Day begins; as well as the training to the candidates and to the representatives of the political parties.
Also the necessary actions for the logistics of the air and local transportation of the international guests and observers for Election Day begin.
The statistics of the general elections of May 3, 2009 are prepared and the first broadcast of results drill is carried out.
In turn, the Commission of Impugnations and Appointments works arduously in the impugnations to the Preliminary Electoral Roll and in the appointments for the positions of popular election.
On January 31, by means of official act, closed the appointment of candidates by internet, and on February 2 officially concluded the period for the appointment of candidates. In that same date and a day before what is stated in the electoral calendar, the Electoral Tribunal delivered the Final Electoral Roll to the political parties and independent candidates.
Panama is one of the few countries if not the only one with a system that allows the appointment of candidates by Internet. Said modality was premiered in this country in the 2004 elections when 97% of the appointments were made through internet.
The system of appointments by internet contributes to expedite the process and to avoid the long lines that used to fill the installations of the TE. The mechanism is simple: the political parties must file a request for the service to the TE indicating the number of users, their addresses and the equipment they have. The TE indicates the requirements for the appointment by internet and if the equipment complies, a security certificate is installed. For the appointment, the user must include the ID number, the position, circumscription and nickname of the candidate. Subsequently, the process must be finalized by formally filling a petition that supports the candidacy; finally, the TE issues a resolution accepting or rejecting the appointment if it does not comply with the requirements that the law demands.
Upon the appointment of the positions of popular election, the elections are in its final stage, but first the magistrates must resolve, by means of public hearings, the impugnations to the appointments of any position at stake.
In this stage the advertising campaign is in its penultimate phase: Civic Participation and Motivation in the general elections, and everything related to the installation of the Press Center where the National Board of Scrutiny will proclaim the new President of the Republic on May 3, 2009 is organized.