Published 23rd April, 2014
The Panameñista Party is the oldest functioning party in Panama having been founded originally in 1932. It has gone through a number of name changes over the years; originally it was known as the National Revolutionary Party, but in 1940 changed its name to Panameñista Party and then in 1969 became the Authentic Panameñista Party (PPA). In 1990 the party changed its name again to the Arnulfista Party and in 2005 reverted back to its current title. The party describes itself as Centre-right and believes in Populism and Conservatism.
The party took some power after the 1936 election when Ezequiel Fernández became Second Vice-President and in 1939 was President for three days from 16th – 18th December after the death of President Juan Demóstenes Arosemena.
Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid won the 1940 presidential election for the party but lasted just one year before he was ousted in a military takeover. He was to win two more presidential elections, in 1948 and in 1968. On both occasions he was ousted by the military, in 1948 after about 18 months and in 1968 he lasted just 11 days before having to escape to the American controlled Canal Zone.
Most of the party opposed the military takeover in 1968, all but a small group which sided with the military regime of Omar Torrijos. The regime allowed this splinter group to register as the Panameñista Party (PP) which is why the party renamed itself the Authentic Panameñista Party (PPA).
Since the re-establishment of democratic elections in 1989 the party has slowly rebuilt itself. Arnulfo Arias would have stood again in the 1989 election as the party candidate but he died in 1988 so the party selected his widow Mireya Moscoso to stand. Although she didn’t win that election, she was elected President in the 1999 election with 44.81% of the vote under the alliance title of Union for Panama (UPP).
With just six seats won in 1989 the party built up to 14 seats in 1994, 18 seats in 1999, 17 seats in 2004 and 22 seats in the 71 seat National Assembly in 2009.
In 2009 the party decided to join the Alliance for Change and supported Ricardo Martinelli (Democratic Change) in his successful bid to become President. The party’s original presidential candidate, Juan Carlos Varela, was made Vice-President.
By 2011 the alliance had split and the Panameñista Party lost a number of its parliamentarians to the Democratic Change Party; PAN currently has 13 seats in the 71 seat National Assembly.
The Panameñista Party is an associate member of the International Democratic Union (IDU) and regionally of the Union of Latin American Parties.