On Monday afternoon, the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) released its third report of results from Sunday’s presidential election. CSE President Roberto Rivas said that, with 85.8% of precincts reporting, the Sandinista Party (FSLN) and its candidate President Daniel Ortega had won with 62.65% of the votes, followed by the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) Alliance with 30.96%, and the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) with 6.02%. Rivas said that voter turnout had been between 75% and 80%. For the presidential race, results in 18 precincts have been challenged and, for members of the Central American Parliament, nine precincts have been challenged. He added that he expected complete results to be available sometime on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The term for all the winning candidates begins on January 1, 2012.
In his presentation, Rivas congratulated President Ortega for his victory. He also lamented what he said was violence committed by PLI Alliance supporters in some localities and he discounted allegations of fraud issued by national observer groups that were not accredited for these elections. With the hyperbole he often demonstrates, he accused the newspaper of La Prensa of being an obstacle to the democratic development of the country, adding that it was “public garbage.”
Based on results released so far, El Nuevo Diario projected that the Sandinista Party would obtain 60 seats in the National Assembly, the PLI Alliance 24, and the PLC six. In this case, the Sandinistas (including the small parties that form part of the Sandinista alliance) will have sufficient numbers to approve pending high level appointments and even pass amendments to the constitution without having to forge agreements with other parties and alliances. Some well-known figures who won election or reelection to the National Assembly are: 1) For the FSLN Alliance: Rene Nuñez, Tomas Borge, Alba Palacios, Brooklyn Rivera, Walmaro Gutierrez, Gustavo Porras, Agustin Jarquin, and Gladys Baez; 2) For the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) Alliance: Eduardo Montealegre, Victor Hugo Tinoco, Enrique Saenz, and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro B.; For the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC): Jorge Castillo Quant, and Maria Dolores Aleman. The losing presidential candidate with the highest vote (in this case Fabio Gadea of the PLI) will also have a seat.
The day after the elections Fabio Gadea candidate of the PLI Alliance, who received 31% of the vote, said “We cannot accept the results presented by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) because they do not reflect the will of the people but rather the will of the CSE. …. Nicaragua has been witness to another fraud. We will not recognize the results of this fraud of enormous proportions. The rights of Nicaraguans to elect [their officials] freely were violated.”
Opposition civil society groups, including the Movement for Nicaragua, the Autonomous Women’s Movement, the Civil Coordinator, Hagamos Democracia, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), and others [many of which have received funding under US “democracy promotion” programs] released statements condemning the elections. Roberto Bendaña of Hagamos Democracia listed “the manipulation of the voter lists, discrimination in the issuing of voter cards, lack of transparency…, refusal to accredit observers, problems with poll watchers of the parties” as reasons to distrust the election results.
The public prosecutor in charge of election law violations, Armando Juarez, announced that he would announce the resolution of claims of violations of campaign regulations on Tuesday, Nov. 8. He said that he had received a claim from Edwin Castro of the FSLN accusing the PLI of violating the period of campaign silence (which begins 72 hours before the polls open) with the broadcasting of proselytizing material on Radio Corporacion owned by PLI candidate Fabio Gadea.
Raul Obregon, director of the polling firm M&R Consultores (which most accurately predicted—58.3% in the last poll—Sunday’s results), said he was not surprised by Ortega’s high numbers. He noted, “The change hasn’t been from one day to the next…. In 2007, Ortega went up (in approval numbers) because of an emotional state among the people in terms of hope and it went up to 52%; then it went down over eight months to its historical level of just over 30% approval.” But, he added, in Sept. 2009, “We began to see a process of change in the attitudes of the population, a slow process of a rise in approval.” He said that people have noted that the government and party members are out front in any emergency, including the floods of recent years. “They put on their rubber boots, their yellow raincoats and they go out where the people are and that helps,” he explained. He said that independents had turned toward the Sandinistas while the opposition was not paying attention. Socio-economic programs of the government were a deciding factor for many voters with four out of every ten saying that Plan Roof was what attracted them the most, with Zero Usury coming in second. He added that these programs appealed to the “aspirations” of voters to have things that they had always desired like a property title, a house, etc. And finally, he explained that the country’s independent voters had lost any lingering fears of the “ghosts of the 1980s,” including fear of war, the draft, rationing, scarcity, etc. “That all disappeared,” he said.
Arturo Cruz , a business school professor and former ambassador to the US, noted that the most recent CID-Gallup poll showed 63% of those polled saying that the country was “on the right road,” a figure virtually identical to Sunday’s voting results. “What has happened in Nicaragua in the last five years is a kind of electoral realignment,” he said. His theory is that many members of the PLC moved over to the FSLN which is slightly different from the analysis of Obregon.(Radio La Primerisima, Nov. 8; El Nuevo Diario, Nov. 8; Informe Pastran, Nov. 8; La Prensa, Nov. 8)
2. Observers issue preliminary reports
The observer mission of the European Union released its preliminary report about Sunday’s elections on Tuesday afternoon. According to a summary in La Prensa, the EU delegation deplored the unconstitutional candidacy of Daniel Ortega, the failure to appoint new members of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the accreditation of national observer groups sympathetic to the government and the failure to grant accreditation to opposition groups, the failure to distribute voter ID cards in a timely fashion, lack of transparency in the formation of local electoral boards at each precinct, missing poll watchers when the votes were being counted, and Roberto Rivas’ attacks on La Prensa. Luis Yañez, head of the mission, said, “The total of irregularities shows many imperfections but as to whether or not Daniel Ortega won, he won. Beyond that I won’t say.” He also said, “If you read the report carefully, it is balanced; we are not congratulating anybody,” which could mean that there is more in the report than was summarized in La Prensa.
The Organization of American States, however, released a communiqué congratulating Nicaraguans on their elections, noting that “in spite of certain predictions about tensions and acts of violence, the maturity of the Nicaraguan people and their vocation for peace marked the peaceful character with which the general elections closed on Sunday…. In Nicaragua yesterday democracy and peace advanced.” The communiqué noted that OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza had called President Daniel Ortega to congratulate him on “the maturity shown by Nicaraguans during the process.” The communiqué went on to say, “Beyond the commentaries that will be included in the final report, the accompaniment mission has expressed to Nicaraguan authorities the indispensible need to guarantee that an electoral accompaniment mission has the security to carry out its mission without any difficulty.” The OAS mission at the beginning reported difficulty gaining entry to 20% of the polling places it was scheduled to cover. After reporting the problem, the OAS said that the situation was remedied. The OAS communiqué said that the mission had received complaints from diverse political organizations about irregularities which members of the mission did not themselves observe but that these would be noted in the final report.
The Latin American Council of Election Experts (CEELA) fielded the third international observer group in Nicaragua for the elections. Alberto Ramirez Zambonini, president of Paraguay’s electoral council, said the electoral process proceeded positively with “agility in the voting process and effective organization with tranquility and peace.” As to the irregularities alleged by the opposition, he said that members of his group did not themselves find evidence of them.
The National Council of Universities (CNU), which was accredited as a Nicaraguan observer group, reported that its quick count had given 64.9% to the Sandinista Party, 29.35% to the PLI Alliance, and 5.02% to the PLC. The CNU fielded a reported 20,000 students, faculty and administrators to all parts of the country.(La Prensa, Nov. 8; El Nuevo Diario, Nov. 8; Radio La Primerisima, Nov. 7, 8; Informe Pastran, Nov. 8)
3. Sandinistas celebrate victory
President Daniel Ortega announced he will celebrate with “all the Nicaraguan families” the landslide electoral victory on Tuesday, Nov. 8. “This Nicaragua is today already another Nicaragua, with immense spirit, generosity, an evolving consciousness, with a peaceful revolution where we all participate, where we all want to work to improve our lives in harmony,” said First Lady and government communications director, Rosario Murillo. Thousands of Sandinista supporters have been publically celebrating since the polls closed Sunday and continued when the first results were announced that night. “Nicaragua has lived a celebration of love, peace, and life, a celebration of eternal youth and we are all reborn,” Murillo said.
Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, in his final mass celebrated before the election said, “Christ will fully reward” the work of President Daniel Ortega and praised the work of the government for the past five years on behalf of the poor. The news agency ACAN-EFE noted that this was a far cry from the Cardinal’s a mass before the 1996 election when he told the parable of the serpent who killed the man who saved him with the clear meaning that Ortega was the snake. However, in Ortega’s current term Obando has been in charge of the Commission for Peace and Reconciliation and worked closely with the government to grant land titles, build houses, and provide roofing materials to former combatants on both sides of the US-sponsored Contra War of the 1980s. (El Nuevo Diario, Nov. 8; Radio La Primerisima, Nov. 8)
4. International reaction
The government of President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador congratulated the people of Nicaragua and President Daniel Ortega on his electoral victory. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) also congratulated the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) and President Ortega saying, “The triumph in Nicaragua is our triumph, for Central Americans and Latin Americans” according to Nidia Diaz, secretary of International Relations for the FMLN and a member of the Central American Parliament. She said the election demonstrated the viability and acceptance by the people of the process of change in favor of the poor majority, of social justice and of the deepening of democracy.
Cuban President Raul Castro also congratulated President Ortega and vowed to continue “the longstanding relations of friendship and cooperation between our two sister nations.” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed Ortega’s re-election as a “victory for the consolidation of the project of integration of the people of America.” Chavez said the victory also strengthens “hope for a future of dignity and sovereignty for the region.”
The United States government, on the other hand, expressed “concern” about reports it was getting of electoral irregularities and complained that there were not enough international electoral observers, supposedly making it difficult for the US to determine the validity of the accusations. Extreme right-wing Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the election a “complete farce” due to the Supreme Court invalidation of the provision against re-election. (El Nuevo Diario, Nov. 8; Radio La Primerisima, Nov. 8; La Prensa, Nov. 7, 8; Informe Pastran, Nov. 8)