Personalities rather than ideological platforms tend to be the dominating force in Panamanian politics. The traditional political parties were the Liberals and the Conservatives, and their differences lay initially in the issue of church and state power. More recently, parties tended to be coalitions of the many splinter groups that had formed around local leaders. Military interventions frequently led to the banning of political parties. Such interruptions have led to an extremely splintered party system, which held together only insofar as they opposed the military regimes.
The coalition that came to power in 1990 consisted of President Endara's Arnulfista Party, led by Dr. Arnulfo Escalona, the National Liberal Republican Movement (MOLIRENA), led by second vice president Guillermo Ford; and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), led by first vice president Ricardo Arias. Subsequently, Arias broke from the coalition, and the PDC, which held a plurality of seats in the Legislative Assembly, became the leader of the opposition.
With the election of Ernesto Pérez Balladares to the presidency in May 1994, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), which had been closely linked to the country's former military regime, was returned to power, as part of a coalition that also included the Liberal Republican Party (PLR) and the Labor Party (PALA). This coalition gained effective control of the National Assembly as well as the executive branch.
Opposition parties included MOLIRENA, the PDC, the Authentic Liberal Party (PLA), the Arnulfista Party (PA), the Solidarity Party (PS), the Liberal Party (PL), and others.