Panama - Leadership

Moscoso will need to prove that she is more than just the widow of President Arias. Although she won the election, her party only won 14 seats in the 72-member Parliament. In contrast, the PRD won 34 seats—a sufficient force to constitute a formidable opposition. The opposition coalition has made it difficult for Moscoso to move forward controversial initiatives such as reform of the tax code, and has blocked ratification of several government-appointed officials. Moscoso campaigned against the reelection of Pérez Balladares and achieved national recognition for her efforts. Her presidential program is generally regarded as lacking specificity, however, often relying on populist rhetoric. She faced a country left impoverished by the economic policies of Pérez Balladares. Approximately 36% of the population live in poverty and unemployment stands at roughly 18%. She initially was seen to have garnered support across party lines for programs to alleviate poverty and generate employment, because she was perceived as more caring than Pérez Balladares. However, Moscoso has been criticized for not doing enough for the poor. As of early 2003, about a year before presidential elections are to be held in 2004, many Panama-nians have been said to be leaning more to the left politically, following the election victories of Brazil's Luiz Ingacio Lula da Silva and Ecuador's Lucio Gutierrez, and the presidency of Chile's Ricardo Lagos, who are seen to be successfully bridging the gulf between rich and poor.

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