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People's Party (Panama)

Not to be confused with the communist People's Party of Panama.
People's Party
Partido Popular
PresidentMilton Henríquez
Founded1956 (1956) (AD)
1957 (1957) (UCN)
i1960 (1960) (PDCP)
2001 (2001) (PP)
HeadquartersMaría building 2 y 3 floor, Perú avenue front to Plaza Porras. Panama City, Panama
IdeologyChristian democracy
Political positionCentre to Centre-right
Regional affiliationChristian Democratic Organization of America
International affiliationCentrist Democrat International
Seats in the National Assembly
2 / 71

The People's Party (Spanish: Partido Popular, until 2001 the Christian Democratic Party of Panama) is a Panamanian Christian democratic political party. It was one of Latin America's most conservative and anti-communist Christian democratic parties.[1] The ideological foundation of the party is based on the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

The Christian Democratic Party was created in 1960.[2] The PDC emerged from a movement at the National University of Panama inspired by European Christian Democracy. It was known from 1957 to 1960 as the National Civic Union (UCN). The PDC's leading figures were middle-class professionals, intellectuals and students, but support also came from the trade union.[3]

The PDC traces its origins to the “First Week of Christian Studies,” which met at Cumbres in March 1959. Those participating in this session and the “Second Week of Christian Studies” in July 1959 included intellectuals, who in one field or another expressed their desire for Social Christian action.[4] The group that organized these meetings was organized on 12 April 1956, and first called itself Social Democratic Action (Accion Social Democrata, ASD) and its leaders met in 1957 under the name Christian Democratic Movement (Movimiento Democrata Cristiano, MDC).[5] The Partido Democrata Cristiano was finally launched at a congress early in 1964.[4]

The trade union group known as the Federation of Christian Workers (Federation de Trabajadores Cristianos), established in 1961, was closely aligned with the PDC.[5]

For the 1964 elections, the PDC presented its first presidential candidate, José Antonio Molino, who was supported by Panama's Teachers Union, he received 9,681 votes (2.98%), coming in fourth among seven nominees.[6]

That was considered a success for the new party and was enough to assure its registration as a legal party. In the succeeding years the Christian Democrats continued to be a small but well-organized element in Panamanian politics.[4]

In 1968 general election, the PDC candidate, Antonio González Revilla, received 11,371 votes (3.55%). In 1964 and 1968 the PDC won one parliamentary seat.[6]

In 1968 the radical wing of the leadership was expelled en masse, as the increasingly right-wing party supported the government of Arnulfo Arias. It was backed by a tiny electorate consisting of urban professionals and a business group led by the Romero family. Arias chose a PDC as minister of education, but his government lasted only 11 days.[3]

All political parties such as the PDC were banned by Omar Torrijos after the military coup of 1968. During the Torrijos government (1968–1978), the Christian Democrats opposed the military regime and calls for a civilian-ruled democracy.[2]

In the 1970s and the 1980s, the majority of political observers noted that the PDC was the most organized and cementing force of the opposition.[7] The PDC was one of the few parties within National Opposition Front (FRENO) (a coalition of eight opposition parties formed in March 1979) that offered a programmatic alternative to military government policy by calling for substantial social reforms and expanded participation in democratic processes.[8]

The PDC was advocate introducing nationalist social reforms to preclude revolutionary action.[5] Its leader, Ricardo Arias Calderón, was the main promoter of the formation of a united opposition against the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

The leaders of the party strongly opposed the government, seeing in its actions "a furthering of communist penetration into Central America."[7] The PDC re-registered on 28 August 1980.[9]

The PDC won 20.6% of the vote and two seats in the 1980 legislative elections (to 19 of the 56 seats in the newly formed National Legislative Council, the other 37 being filled by nominees of a non-party National Assembly of Community Representatives established in 1972).[2]

In December 1981, Calderón was elected president of the Organization of Christian-Democratic Parties of America.[7]

In 1984, it was part of the Democratic Opposition Alliance (ADO), which supported the presidential candidacy of Arias of Authentic Panameñista Party (PPA). Ricardo Arias Calderón was a Second Vice-Presidential candidate.[10] The ADO lost the presidential and legislative elections following suspected widespread fraud by the military.

In 1987, the PDC became increasingly involved in confrontations with the government, openly campaigning by strikes (supported mainly by businesses rather than labor unions) and street demonstrations (which were often violently repressed) for the resignation or removal of General Manuel Noriega. Ricardo Arias Calderón referring to charges against Manuel Noriega of murder, drug trafficking, corruption and electoral fraud, described him as "virtually a dictator and gangster".[2]

For the 1989 elections, the PDC was the main component of the Democratic Alliance of Civic Opposition (ADOC), with the Guillermo Endara as the coalition's presidential candidate.[3]

Xalderón was viewed as a likely successor to Arias as principal spokesman for the opposition, eventually accepting nomination as ADOC First Vice-Presidential candidate in 1989.[10] The PDC polled 261,598 votes (40.18%), coming in first among twelve nominees.[11]

After the official ratification of the results following the US military invasion in December 1989, Calderón became First Vice-President and Interior and Justice Minister, and the PDC the largest party in the Legislative Assembly with 28 of the 67 seats.[3]

Possessing a plurality within the Legislative Assembly, the PDC was estranged from its coalition partners in September 1990, when they joined with the opposition PRD to reject its nominees for chamber officials. Despite the rebuff, the party stayed within the ADOC until April 1991, when its ministerial delegation was ousted by President Guillermo Endara for displaying "disloyalty and arrogance."[10] Its withdrawal from the ADOC coalition government caused a political crisis. That had followed months of infighting during which Calderón had publicly described Guillermo Endara's economic program, which advocated severe austerity measures and the privatization of state enterprises, as "senseless."

In succeeding months, the PDC became the leader of the opposition, to such an extent that it was exerting strong influence within such organizations as the Civic Crusade, an organization from which Endara had drawn his strongest support and called for a plebiscite to decide on his desirability of Endara remaining in office.[12]

In September 1991, the PDC was judged firmly to have secured its political influence on parliamentary committees as a direct result of facilitating the victory of a dissident Authentic Liberal Party (PLA) candidate in the election of a new President of the Legislative Assembly.[12]

In the run up to the 1994 election, Calderón resigned as First Vice-President of the Republic in December 1992. In a move that was seen as reflecting a desire to distance himself from Endara.[10]

In 1994, Eduardo Vallarino, the candidate of PDC, unsuccessfully ran in the presidential elections, obtaining only 25,476 votes (02.39%) and the party managed to gain only one seat in the legislative elections.[11]

For the 1999 elections, the PDC was the main component of the Opposition Action Alliance (AAO), with the PDC's Alberto Vallarino Clement as the coalition's presidential candidate. He polled 221,459 votes (17.38%) and came fourth (the PDC – 140,824 and 11.05%). The PDC won 5 legislative seats.[13]

On 10 September 2001, the PDC changed its name to People's Party.[9]

In 2004, PDC allied with the New Fatherland (PN) and its candidate Martín Torrijos Espino of Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).[6]

In 2009, the PDC allied with the One Country for All (UPPT) and its candidate Balbina Herrera of Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).[14]

In 2014, the PP allied with the Panameñista Party and its candidate Juan Carlos Varela to form the El Pueblo Primero alliance, which won the election with 39% of the vote on May 4, 2014. As a result several members of the party are currently serving in the Varela Administration, highlighted by the party's president Milton Henriquez who serves as Minister of Government.

The PDC is a full member of the Christian Democrat International and Christian Democratic Organization of America.[12]


  1. ^ Ameringer, p. 481
  2. ^ a b c d Political parties of the world. 3rd edn. Edited by Alan J. Day. Harlow: Longman. 1988. Pp 353.
  3. ^ a b c d The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of Central America and the Caribbean. Gunson, Phil. New York, NY: Academic Reference Division, Simon & Schuster, 1993. Pp.81.
  4. ^ a b c Latin American Political Parties. By Robert J. Alexander. (New York: Praeger Publishers,. 1973. Pp. 366.
  5. ^ a b c Political parties of the Americas: Canada, Latin America, and the West Indies. V. 1. Edited by Robert J. Alexander. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982. Pp. 564.
  6. ^ a b c Nohlen, p. 532
  7. ^ a b c JPRS Reports. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. 1988.
  8. ^ Library of Congress, Federal Research Division. Panama: A Country Study. Ed. Sandra W. Meditz and Dennis M. Hanratty. Washington: GPO, 1989. Pp. 314.
  9. ^ a b Electoral Tribunal, Reseñas de Juntas Directivas por Partido Archived 2010-01-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ a b c d Banks, p. 637.
  11. ^ a b Nohlen, p. 533
  12. ^ a b c Political parties of the world. 5th ed. Edited by Alan J. Day. Harlow: Longman. 2002. Pp 367. ISBN 978-0953627875.
  13. ^ Nohlen, p. 534
  14. ^ Electoral Tribunal


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