Panama is a Republic state based on parliamentary democracy. Panama (official name: Republic of Panama) is of immense commercial importance because of its strategic locational advantage.
President is both the chief of state and the head of the government. President is elected by a popular vote to serve a five-year term, and enjoys the executive powers which include implementation of the law within the country and running the day-to-day affairs. The Cabinet is appointed by the President.
The legislature in Panama is unicameral. The parliament called National Assembly has 78 seats, with its members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. The legislature is a power branch which is equal to and independent of the executive. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. President cannot dissolve the parliament directly; needs approval of the latter. The people of Panama have considerable political power.
Though constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but it remains inefficient, politicized and prone to corruption. The main source of the law is the constitution of 1972 (reformed many times, latest in 2004). The legal system is based on civil law system and judicial reviews of the legislative acts. Panama accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction but with reservations. Spanish is the judicial language used in the country, having an interpreter is possible.
On the whole, Panama is ruled by law but the country faces the challenge of shaking off its reputation as a major transit point for US-bound drugs and illegal immigrants, as well as a haven for money-laundering. Foreign nationals cannot be guaranteed an impartial trail from the country’s judicial system. Panama is plagued with a high degree of corruption particularly in administration and political system.
Major political parties
Panama works under a multi-party system, resulting generally into making of coalition governments. The major political parties in the country are:
- PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) – a centre-left political party,
- PA (Panamenista Party) – party is a homage to Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid who was a three-time president of Panama,
- PS (Solidarity Party) – a nationalist party,
- Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement – a liberal party,
- PP (People's Party) – Christian democrats,
- PLN (National Liberal Party) – liberals.
Major political leaders
President: Martin TORRIJOS Espino (since September 2004) –PRD, heading a coalition government with PP
Next political election dates
Presidential: May 2009
National Assembly: May 2009