Panama Government and Politics

State and politics


According to the 1972 Constitution (revised no later than 2004), the President has the executive power. The president is elected in direct elections for a five-year term, together with two vice presidents; a former president can run for re-election only after two terms of office have passed.

The 71 members of the Legislative Assembly are elected in direct elections for five years. According to, Panama is divided into nine provinces governed by governors appointed by the president as well as three autonomous territories of the indigenous population, comarcas indígenas. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of PM and its meanings of Panama.


The leading parties are Partido Panameñista (PPA), formerly called Partido Arnulfista (PA), and Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD). The PRD was formed by General Omar Torrijos, who was the country’s strong man and de facto leader from 1968 and until his death in 1981. The PRD is a center-left party and had government powers in 1994-99 and 2004-09. After the 2019 election, the PRD was back in office after its candidate Laurentino (“Nito”) Cortizo won the presidential election and the party received 35 out of 71 seats in the parliamentary elections.

The PPA is a conservative party founded in the 1930s by the nationalist Arnulfo Arias (1901–88). The party led the country in 1999–2004, and its candidate Juan Carlos Varela won the 2014 presidential election. The PPA received eight seats in 2019.

The most votes in the 2014 parliamentary elections were Cambio Democrático (CD), founded by businessman Ricardo Martinelli (President 2009-14). Five years later, the party backed to 18 parliamentary seats.


The legal system in Panama is mostly codified, including in civil law, commercial law, criminal law, trial law and administrative law. The judiciary consists mainly of district courts, higher district courts and a supreme court; In addition, there are small litigation courts, labor courts and maritime law courts. The death penalty was abolished in 1922; the last execution took place in 1903.

Heads of State

Presidents after the 1968 coup

1968-78 Omar Torrijos
1978-82 Arístides Royo
1982-84 Ricardo de la Espriella
1984 Jorge Illueca
1984-85 Nicolás Ardito Barletta
1985-88 Eric Arturo Delvalle
1988-89 Manuel Solís
1989 Manuel Noriega
1989-94 Guillermo Endara
1994-99 Ernesto Pérez
1999-2004 Mireya Moscoso
2004-09 Martín Torrijos
2009-14 Ricardo Martinelli
2014-19 Juan Carlos Varela
2019- Laurentino (“Nito”) Cortizo

Panama Head of Government

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