Panamanian general election, 1984

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The Republic of Panama held a general election on 6 May 1984, electing both a new President of the Republic and a new Legislative Assembly.


Under October 1978 legislation, eight parties had met quotas of 30,000 valid signatures by 1 April 1983, in order to legally nominate candidates in future elections.[1]

On 24 April 1983, the electorate overwhelmingly approved by popular referendum a number of amendments to the 1972 Constitution. Among the changes proposed is the replacement of the existing 505-member National Assembly of Municipal Representatives by a national legislature of 70 members, and empowering this body to appoint high-ranking government officials, which until now was left to the President of the Republic.[2]

In August 1983 law created an Electoral Tribunal consisting of one each member appointed by the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The tribunal was given ultimate authority to interpret and implement electoral rules. A national vote-counting board was formed to process election returns and report to the Electoral Tribunal.[3]

General Paredes, in keeping with the new constitutional provision that no active Guard member could participate in an election, reluctantly retired from the Guard on 12 August 1983. He was succeeded immediately by Noriega, who was promoted to brigadier general. During the same month, Paredes was nominated as the PRD candidate for president. National elections were only five months away, and Paredes appeared to be the leading presidential contender. Nevertheless, in early September, President de la Espriella purged his cabinet of Paredes loyalists, and Noriega declared that he would not publicly support any candidate for president. These events convinced Paredes that he had no official government or military backing for his candidacy. He withdrew from the presidential race on 6 September 1983, less than a month after retiring from the Guard. Although Paredes subsequently gained the support of the Popular Nationalist Party (PNP) and was able to appear on the 1984 ballot, he was no longer a major presidential contender. Constitutional reforms notwithstanding, the reality of Panamanian politics dictated that no candidate could become president without the backing of the National Guard and, especially, its commander.[4]

President Ricardo de la Espriella resigned on 13 February 1984 and his vice-president Jorge Illueca assumes the presidency. The resignation of President and his cabinet was barely noticed during the intense election campaign. De la Espriella was forced out by Noriega. "De la Espriella had opposed the military’s manipulation of the election and strongly advocated free elections for 1984".[5]

The two primary candidates in the presidential race were opposition candidate Arnulfo Arias and Noriega's selection, Ardito Barletta. Due to the near total media control of Noriega's Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), the only media outlet to endorse Arias was the independent newspaper La Prensa.[6]

Election Day[edit]

"Preelection reports suggested that the procedures enacted during 1982-1984 to ensure a free and fair national election would achieve that result. Events on and after election day, however, were tainted with fraud. The vote count was stopped early and then suspended three days later, on 9 May. On 12 May, the tallies stood at 319,671 for Nicolás Ardito Barletta Vallarino and 314,714 for Arnulfo Arias, but the trend, with challenges, was favoring Arias. On 16 May, the Tribunal declared Barletta's victory. Of some 640,000 votes cast, they found Barletta the winner by 1,713 votes. The process looked suspicious: the announcement came ten days after the election, and one of the three members of the Tribunal abstained".[7]

Presidential election results[edit]


Candidate Party/Alliance Votes %
Nicolás Ardito Barletta National Democratic Union (UNADE) 300,748 46.98%
Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) 175,722 27.45%
Labor and Agrarian Party (PALA) 45,384 07.09%
Republican Party (PR) 34,215 05.34%
Liberal Party (PL) 28,568 04.46%
Panameñista Party (PP) 11,579 01.81%
Broad Popular Front (FRAMPO) 5,280 00.82%
Dr Arnulfo Arias Madrid Democratic Opposition Alliance (ADO) 299,035 46.71%
Authentic Panameñista Party (PPA) 221,335 34.57%
Christian Democratic Party (PDC) 46,963 07.34%
Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA) 30,737 04.80%
Gen. (retd) Rubén Darío Paredes Popular Nationalist Party (PNP) 15,976 02.50%
Carlos Iván Zúñiga Popular Action Party (PAPO) 13,782 02.15%
Carlos Del Cid People’s Party of Panama (PPP) 4,598 00.72%
José Renán Esquivel Workers' Revolutionary Party (PRT) 3,969 00.62%
Ricardo Barría Workers' Socialist Party (PST) 2,085 00.33%
Total valid votes 640,193 100%
Spoilt and invalid votes 30,897 04.60%
Total votes/Turnout 671,090 73.13%
Registered voters 917,677
Population 2,130,000

Legislative election[edit]


Parties and alliances Votes/districts % Seats
National Democratic Union (UNADE) 330,631 54.26% 45
Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) 153,182 25.14% 34
Labor and Agrarian Party (PALA) 74,430 12.21% 7
Republican Party (PR) 51,103 08.39% 3
Liberal Party (PL) 36,040 05.91% 1
Panameñista Party (PP) 8,063 01.32% 0
Broad Popular Front (FRAMPO) 7,813 01.28% 0
Democratic Opposition Alliance (ADO) 245,496 40.29% 22
Authentic Panameñista Party (PPA) 124,562 20.44% 13
Christian Democratic Party (PDC) 69,998 11.49% 6
Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA) 50,936 08.36% 3
Popular Nationalist Party (PNP) 12,596 02.07% 0
Popular Action Party (PAPO) 8,471 01.39% 0
People’s Party of Panama (PPP) 7,315 01.20% 0
Workers' Revolutionary Party (PRT) 3,545 00.58% 0
Workers' Socialist Party (PST) 1,283 00.21% 0
Total valid votes 609,337 100% 67
Spoilt and invalid votes 22.571 03.57%
Total votes/Turnout 631,908 68.86%
Registered voters 917,677
Population 2,130,000


On 13 September 1985, a long-time opponent of Manuel Noriega, Hugo Spadafora, was murdered by Panamanian Defense Forces officers. President Barletta called for an investigation of Spadafora’s death and allegations of Panamanian Defense Forces complicity. These actions, in conjunction with a power struggle between Roberto Díaz Herrera and Noriega, caused the Panamanian Defense Forces to oust this increasingly unpopular president.[10]

Barletta resigned on 27 September 1985, and was replaced by First Vice-President Eric Arturo Delvalle who promised to return to “Torrijista principles".[11]

"In 1987, the situation grew more critical, producing paralysis within the Panamanian Defense Forces. The crisis came to a head in June 1987 when Colonel Roberto Díaz Herrera, recently retired head of the Panamanian Defense Forces High Command, denounced the internal management of General Noriega’s military organization. Díaz Herrera’s act was the first public manifestation of a breach. In the face of the Panamanian Defense Forces’s demonstrated weakness, the political sector began to mobilize and call for a confrontation with the military. Following the leadership of groups that appeared to have little political experience, they formed the ‘Cruzada Civilista’ for the purpose of overthrowing the Eric Arturo Delvalle government and convening a ‘constituyente’ assembly to draw up a new constitution".[12]

"By late February 1988 the crisis further deepened as Eric Arturo Delvalle attempted to fire Noriega from the Panamanian Defense Forces. Instead, Eric Arturo Delvalle was sacked by the Panamanian Defense Forces-controlled National Assembly and Manuel Solis Palma was elected ‘minister in charge of the presidency’".[13]


  1. ^ Pearson, Neale J. "Panama." Latin America and Caribbean contemporary record II. 1983. Pp. 583.
  2. ^ Chronicle of parliamentary elections. Geneva: International Centre for Parliamentary Documentation, Inter-Parliamentary Union. Volume 17, 1983. Pp. 12.
  3. ^ Modglin, Terrence W. 1984. The Panamanian presidential and legislative elections. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic & International Studies. Pp. 14.
  4. ^ Black, Jan Knippers and Edmundo Flores. "Historical setting." Meditz, Sandra W. 1989. Panama: a country study. Washington, D.C.: Rederal Research Division, Library of Congress. Pp. 60.
  5. ^ Black, Jan Knippers and Edmundo Flores. "Historical setting." Meditz, Sandra W. 1989. Panama: a country study. Washington, D.C.: Rederal Research Division, Library of Congress. Pp. 63.
  6. ^ Robert C. Harding (2006). The History of Panama. Greenwood Press. p. 97. ISBN 031333322X. 
  7. ^ Scranton, Margaret E. The Noriega years: U.S.-Panamanian relations, 1981-1990. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. 1991. Pp. 76.
  8. ^ Elections in the Americas : a data handbook / ed. by Dieter Nohlen, Vol. 1. [Oxford] [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005. Pp.533.
  9. ^ Elections in the Americas : a data handbook / ed. by Dieter Nohlen, Vol. 1. [Oxford] [u.a.] : Oxford Univ. Press, 2005. Pp.527.
  10. ^ Scranton, Margaret E. The Noriega years: U.S.-Panamanian relations, 1981-1990. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. 1991. Pp. 87.
  11. ^ Schooley, Helen. Conflict in Central America. Harlow: Longman. 1987. Pp. 121.
  12. ^ Gandásegui, Marco A. "The military regimes of Panama." Journal of interamerican studies and world affairs 35, 3:1-18 (fall 1993). Pp. 12.
  13. ^ Loser, Eva. The 1989 Panamanian elections: pre-election report. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic & International Studies. 1989. Pp. 4.