Nicaraguan elections end in chaos — work of the Sandinistas or the CIA?

Update: In the final count, the FSLN ended up with winning a grand total of 105 city governments. The liberals continue to claim it was fraudulent, but in the Supreme Election Commision (CSE) there were three Sandinistas and three representatives of the liberals. The liberals also ended up voting for accepting the results in Managua and León. One of them came out against Montealegre publicly, saying the former candidate for mayor had ulterior motives. The liberal party has expelled its three members of the CSE, claiming they had sold themsevles to the FSLN. Ortega mentioned in the victory speech, that the Carter Center and the OAS had told him after the elections in 1996, that they couldn’t permit new elections in Nicaragua, although the elections were fraudulent. If that is true, it means that the Sandinistas were kept out of power for an additional ten years after winning the elections. That likely explains why Ortega decided not to let them monitor this time around.

Nicaragua once again is on the verge of chaos. Municipal elections were held on the 9th of October, and these were largely won by the Sandinistas (FSLN). In 91-94 out of 146 cases, the FSLN managed to win the majority. That is slightly more than last time, with a difference of around 4 counties. However, the elections were something somewhat extraordinary.

This video I took in León a week after the elections:

First of all, the MRS lost its license to run as an independent party, due to not fulfilling the requirements set by the voting laws (see two stories back) that have been in place since the 1990s, when the liberals were in power. The MRS though claimed that it was only because the main liberal party, the PLC, and the FSLN had been cooperating and created an unholy alliance, a so-called “pact”, to squeeze ut all other parties and share power between them.

At the elections finally, 5 parties participated: the FSLN, the PLC, another liberal party that had surged as a reaction to the corruption in the PLC (ALN), the party of the contras (PRN) and a party that noone met had heard about before (PC). The PLC and ALN are ideologically the same, with the only difference being the ALN not being part of this “pact” with the FLSN, according to the MRS. And which party does the MRS choose to support? The PLC!

This does not make a lot of sense technically, but some have explained to me that the talk about dicatorship and the “pact” was to be understood as the usual pre-election talk. A central member of the MRS León pointed out to me that they would get five jobs in the mayors office, if the PLC were to win.

Before the elections, president Ortgea announced that some of the usual international election observers wouldn’t be allowed this time around. The reason being that Nicaragua had enough experience with holding it’s own elections an that these were controlled by outside powers. However, another factor was probably the political leanings of these: the Carter Center, the Organization of American States and the EU.

Time Magazine sums this up as meaning: “the government refused to allow monitoring by any credible outside electoral observers” which almost sounds like the U.S. State Department (in the same article) which said that the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to “not accredit credible domestic and international election observers has made it difficult to properly assess the conduct of the elections.”

Also the Economist goes at it. It headlines “How to steal an election” and then goes on explaining: “For the first time since 1990, independent observers, foreign and local, were refused accreditation to monitor the election.”

There is just one problem with that version. And that is, that they leave out a significant part of the truth. First of all, oversight of the elections was given through the system of fiscales. That is that at every voting place, a representative of each party is present to watch that everything goes on orderly. The US through USAID and the embassy have given out money openly to opposition groups that stood “for democracy” as they phrase it. Indirectly they thereby financed the PLC and its ability to send fiscals to every voting place.

Secondly, there were actually election observers present! The election observing groups protocols of Tical and Quito and the Consejos de Expertos Electorales de Latinoamérica were present and deny that there was any kind of fraud. Sure enough, they could have been tricked, but strange isn’t it, that the Economist and Time Magazine did not find it necessary to write about them at all?

After the elections, the political right has announced some marches, and is trying to pass a law, that would nullify the vote and call for new elections. Their candidate for mayor of Managua, Eduardo Montealegre, apparently lost. If that turns out to be the final outcome, that would according to the FSLN mean that he would automatically become city council member for Managua and thereby loose his seat in parliament. That again would mean that he’d loose his parliamentary immunity and would then be charged with a corruption scandal. Ultimately, for Montealegre this might be a game of either becoming mayor with the help of the US embassy or ending in prison.

As to the question of whether there was an election fraud: I cannot say anything for sure. Obviously, I cannot, I am just one single person in this country. Likely at many voting booths, both Sandinistas and liberals tried to cheat as much as they could get away with. But because the other ones were always present as well, there is a limit as to how much they can have been doing.

But one thing I can say for sure: the country currently seems to be destabilizing. Several journalists have been attacked on either side, a few people been killed, ad the day before yesterday, it was reported that three liberal radio stations in León were burned down to the ground by mobs (although this turned out to be an exaggeration). The right-wing press tried to link that with the Sandinistas, and the FSLN told me about the last attack that they thought it either were liberals staging it, or more likely Sandinista groups that the FSLN had no direct control over.

My landlady is liberal and the day before the elections she told me “tomorrow we’re gonna win!” León has always been Sandinista, so I thought it to be highly improbable. I responded: “Ok fine, lets say that. If you win, you win. But if you don’t, please don’t start talking about election fraud.” “But of course,” she answered, “it is said that they’ve imported pens from Venezuela with special ink that disappears after a few hours.” That’s when I knew that no matter what, there would be charges of election fraud.

3 thoughts on “Nicaraguan elections end in chaos — work of the Sandinistas or the CIA?”

  1. Hello Johanne,

    I really found your posting to be beneficial as my husband and I live in Puerto there doesn’t seem to be the same political culture over here that you have on the Pacific side, especially in Leon. We were there about four weeks ago for three days and my husband had mentioned that he didn’t want to be there during the elections. You raise some good points in your article about the extent of U.S. involvement in the elections and although I don’t know much about politics in Nicaragua I could see why they would want to keep the US out if they are represented by the “Carter Foundation”!
    However, and admittedly I know little about Nicaraguan Politics, if the country is progressively freely electing a majority of one party (FSLN) wouldn’t that have a stabilizing effect on the country rather than the destabilizing that you talk of?
    Thank you so much for your post I look forward to learning much more from it!


  2. @Jesse: Yes, indeed that would have a stabilizing effect. That is why the intervention from the liberals works destabilizing. The final result is, as we can see, that a prominent help package from the US has been frozen. If that means that the road from León to Poneloya (the beach) that was just started before the elections never will be finished or remain in its current state (half-built half-tornup), it would really mean a serious problem for tourism and transport.

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