Viewing cable 07PANAMA815
Title: PANAMA: DEMOCRATIC CHANGE INTERNAL POLL INDICATES

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07PANAMA8152007-05-17 22:23:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama
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DE RUEHZP #0815/01 1372223
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 172223Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0402
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
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RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
.C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000815 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA:  DEMOCRATIC CHANGE INTERNAL POLL INDICATES 
STRONG MARTINELLI LEAD 
 
 
Classified By: POLCOUNS BRIAN R. NARANJO.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
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SUMMARY 
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¶1.  (C) Democratic Change (CD) leader Ricardo Martinelli 
continued to lead the polls among Panamanian presidential 
aspirants, CD VP Roberto Henriquez told POLCOUNS on May 17. 
Henriquez later provided POLCOUNS a copy of a private CID 
Gallup poll conducted for CD in May that showed Martinelli 
leading in six different prospective multi-candidate races. 
"Unless his numbers fall dramatically, below ten percent, 
Martinelli will run," Henriquez said.  Regarding a possible 
opposition interparty primary, he said that the CD was 
already unified behind its candidate, was prepared to enter 
into unity discussions with others in the opposition, but did 
not contemplate participating in such an interparty primary 
at this time. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Martinelli Wins in Six Scenarios 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶2.  (C) The May 2007 CID Gallup poll conducted privately for 
CD asked voters to choose their preferred candidate in each 
of six scenarios.  The scenarios were designed to test 
Martinelli's strength against different governing 
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) candidates in different 
2, 3 and 4 candidate scenarios.  The results of which are as 
follows: 
 
Scenario 1: (3-way race against Navarro and Endara) 
----------- 
Guillermo Endara (Moral Vanguard of the 
  Country - VMP): 19.3 percent 
Juan Carlos Navarro (Democratic Revolutionary 
 Party -PRD):     23.7 percent 
Ricardo Martinelli (CD):   30.9 percent 
None:                      20.8 percent 
Did Not Know/Respond:       5.4 percent 
 
 
Scenario 2: (4-way race against Endara, Navarro, and Varela 
----------- 
Endara:     18.3 percent 
Navarro:    23.0 percent 
Martinelli: 30.9 percent 
Juan Carlos Varela (Panamenista 
  Party):    4.4 percent 
None:       19.1 percent 
Did Not Know/Respond:  4.3 percent 
 
Scenario 3: (4-way race against Endara, Varela, and Herrera) 
----------- 
Endara:     17.8 percent 
Martinelli: 31.4 percent 
Varela:      7.5 percent 
Balbina Herrera (PRD): 
            19.2 percent 
None:       19.8 percent 
Did Not Know/Respond: 4.2 percent 
 
Scenario 4: (4-way race against Endara, Varela, and Perez 
Balladares) 
----------- 
Endara:     20.0 percent 
Martinelli: 34.7 percent 
Varela:      8.6 percent 
Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares 
  (PRD):     3.5 percent 
None:       28.1 percent 
Did Not Know/Respond: 5.1 percent 
 
Scenario 5: (4-way race against Endara, Varela, and Lewis) 
----------- 
Endara:     20.0 percent 
Martinelli: 35.0 percent 
Varela:     10.6 percent 
Samuel Lewis (PRD): 
              2.7 percent 
None:        27.6 percent 
Did Not Know/Respond: 4.1 percent 
 
Scenario 6: (Head-to-head race against Navarro) 
----------- 
 
Navarro:    28.4 percent 
Martinelli: 37.3 percent 
None:       28.6 percent 
Did Not Know/Respond:  5.7 
 
¶3.  (C) Henriquez asserted that the results of this poll 
tracked closely with the results of a similar parallel poll 
contracted privately by CD with Borges and Associates, though 
he did not share this poll with POLCOUNS.  Current Panama 
City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro (PRD) would be by far the 
strongest PRD candidate that Martinelli could face, Henrique 
noted, but Navarro was not President Martin Torrijos' 
preferred successor.  Navarro would need to turn his back on 
Torrijos but still maintain PRD party unity in order to make 
a run for the presidency.  Torrijos' preferred successor, 
current First VP and FM Samuel Lewis, only polled 2.7 percent 
and was out polled by respondents who indicated, "None." 
Henriquez was dismissive of the prospect that current 
Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera would run for president. 
"Balbina will win in a walk to be the next mayor of Panama 
City," he said, though he conceded that a Lewis-Herrera 
ticket (with Herrera as vice presidential candidate) would be 
a formidable ticket.  Ultimately, the PRD's presidential 
candidate would start the campaign from a base of at least 
thirty percent in the polls, Henriquez conceded.  Henriquez 
said that the most surprising result of the poll was Endara's 
strength:  "He's a stone in our shoe, sapping support that 
would otherwise go to Martinelli." 
 
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CD Not Interested in Interparty Primary 
--------------------------------------- 
 
¶4.  (C) While noting that the CD had not closed the door to 
an interparty primary, Henriquez said that it was not in 
Martinelli's interest to participate in an interparty 
primary.  Martinelli still came out ahead in 3- and 4-way 
races, and "We are united behind Martinelli while the 
Panamenistas are in disarray and Patriotic Union (UP) has no 
candidate."  Ultimately, Endara had to secure the endorsement 
of the Panamenistas if he were to have any viability as a 
candidate.  For most Panamenistas, the interparty primary was 
viewed as a way to ensure that the Panamenista Party -- 
Panama's largest opposition party -- would hold the top of 
the ticket since under the interparty primary rules only 
voters who were registered with a party could participate, 
unregistered voters could not. Henriquez explained that 
ultimately Panamanian Presidential elections were determined 
by the 60 percent of voters who were not registered.  Though 
the CD was small party (about 86,000 members), he argued that 
Martinelli, who positioned himself as a new kind of 
politician who sought to contrast himself with the 
traditional party leaders in the PRD and the Panamenista 
parties, appealed strongly to independent voters and secured 
significant support from other parties' loyalists as well. 
For Varela, Henriquez asserted, the interparty primary was a 
mechanism to move the Panamenista party towards acceptance of 
a non-Panamenista at the top of the ticket.  Henriquez 
confided that Martinelli and Varela had been in discussions 
regarding collaboration that would ceded the vice 
presidential spot to Varela.  Finally, Henriquez also 
complained that the interparty primary process drew out the 
election campaign timeline and drained the opposition of 
energy and resources.  First, parties would have to hold 
nationwide primaries, and then the opposition would need to 
hold a nationwide interparty primary.  "These primaries and 
the interparty primary would be expensive," Henriquez said. 
"They will drain the opposition of money and energy, and it 
will be difficult to regain sufficient strengthen to be able 
to taken on the PRD machine eight months after the interparty 
primary." 
 
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Comment 
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¶5.  (C) "Of course, I'll share this poll with you," Henriquez 
told POLCOUNS.  "It contains great news for us."  Clearly 
elated that Martinelli consistently scored 30 percent or 
higher in these polls -- especially the head-to-head poll 
against Navarro -- Henriquez believed that Martinelli 
remained strong and should continue to prepare to run alone 
though remain open to forming a unity coalition with others 
in the opposition.  "Martinelli will have to come around to 
the fact that he will have to participate in the interparty 
primary," Panamenista Vice President Fernando Arias told 
 
POLCOUNS on May 16.  "That's the only way he would be able to 
harness the Panamenistas' nationwide machine."  Arias and 
others in the opposition believe that Martinelli has reached 
the upper limits of his popularity and that he will begin to 
fall in the polls.  For the time being though, Martinelli 
remains a significant force in the Panama's opposition, a 
force with which other opposition leader will need to come to 
terms. 
EATON