Nicaragua Heading Towards a Single-Party System

A citizen votes in Managua’s municipal elections. Photo: Jorge Torres / EFE

By declaring an FSLN sweep of all the country’s City Halls, the FSLN has left Nicaraguans with no political options whatsoever. The announced results have sparked fears of even “more repression.”

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – By adjudicating to their own party all the country’s 153 Mayor’s offices, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has demonstrated that the governing party – the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) – is “advancing” towards the imposition of a one-party system in Nicaragua. This is the chief conclusion of political analysts and opposition organizations following the November 6th municipal elections.

Sources explained that this isn’t currently “a fact” since it means reforming the Constitution and the laws. However, in practice, Nicaraguans have been left “without options” politically.

Former Liberal deputy and political analyst Eliseo Nuñez believes that, given the results of the November 6th “municipal elections farce,” the Sandinista Front “is going to say they have a mandate from the people, and that they’re the only viable party in Nicaragua.” This situation “is going to lead them to weigh the option of becoming the sole party,” he stated.

Nuñez recalled that the idea of a one-party system in Nicaragua was broached by Ortega himself on April 22, 2009, in declarations he offered the Cuban television program Mesa Redonda (“Round Table”). Among other things, he assured that “a multi-party system is nothing more than a way to break up the nation. That’s what multi-party politics are: a way to split the nation, cause confrontation in the nation, divide the nation, divide our people.”

The analyst continued: “there are many people who believe [the imposition of a one-party system] is simply a de facto event, but that isn’t true. When you have a single party and you make it the center of your system, you have to include that in the law, so that what happens in the party is part of what happens in the government. That’s the system they have in countries like Cuba, North Korea, or the [now defunct] Soviet Union.”

Similarly, former deputy and political analyst Enrique Saenz estimated that by adjudicating all the municipal governments to the FSLN, the Ortega regime “has made the sweep it needed, which it’s been working to achieve for years, in order to impose a one-party system on Nicaragua,” similar to the Cuban model.

By completely liquidating representative democracy in Nicaragua, the regime is leaving the citizens “without political options,” Nuñez noted. “What they’re after is to get people to lower their guard; without representative options, people tend not to leap into the vacuum, and this generates a sensation of collapsed hopes.”

Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council confirms results

On the afternoon of November 7, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) in Nicaragua confirmed the FSLN “victory” in 100% of the mayors’ races. This was the culmination of a process that lacked all credibility, in which the Sandinista Front participated nearly alone, except for small parties that have historically collaborated with them: the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC); the Alliance for the Republic (APRE), the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN); the Independent Liberal Party (PLI); and Yatama.

In their second report, with 99.13% of the results scrutinized, CSE president Brenda Rocha announced that 2.1 million of the 3.7 million Nicaraguans eligible to vote had cast a ballot in the 2022 Municipal elections. This translates into an abstention rate of 42.9%.

The data from Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council contrasted with that of the Urnas Abiertas Citizens’ Observatory, a non-government monitoring group. That group estimated abstentionism at 82.5%, a level  that surpassed the results of the 2021 “electoral farce”, where the abstention rate was around 81.5%. Urnas Abiertas calculated their information based on data they received from 366 polling places all over Nicaragua, where voter participation was a bare 17.3%.

Hours before the CSE announced their second count, Ortega’s police assaulted and surrounded sympathizers of the indigenous Yatama party, who were conducting a parallel count of results in the Puerto Cabezas municipality, part of the North Caribbean Autonomous Region.

According to a report from Urnas Abiertas, Yatama sympathizers claimed their party had won a number of mayor’s seats in the North Caribbean Region, among them the city of Waspan, and accused the FSLN of trying to steal the elections from them. The police reacted to the citizen’s grievances with aggression.

“More repression” feared

Nicaragua’s Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH), now operating from outside the country, feels that this “municipal elections farce” doesn’t even deserve to be called an election, since it took place in the context of “a crisis in which human rights violations are our daily bread.” The results raise “concern” about the regime’s “total control” across the national territory.

Marcos Carmona, executive secretary of the CPDH, warned that the adjudication of the country’s 153 mayoralties to the governing party will generate “more repression, more organization of paramilitary forces.” “Nicaraguans are going to continue leaving the country,” he predicted, as they flee from the crisis.

Carmona also stressed that the high level of abstentionism in these elections reflected the fact that society “has no one to vote for. The candidates who participated were the same as always.” He added: “the Nicaraguan people are aware that these elections have no value, aren’t serious, because they didn’t adhere to international parameters for a true electoral process.”

Denis Darce, a member of the CPDH, concurs. He emphasized: “we can’t call this farce an election” since “it’s impossible to think that the Nicaraguan people, with a dictatorship like the one we have at the moment, could freely choose” their authorities. Those who went to the polls did so under “intimidation” from the regime and its repressive apparatus.

The CPDH also issued a press statement that the “farce” of the municipal elections was a confirmation that “in Nicaragua there are no conditions or [minimal] guarantees” of transparency.

“The dictatorship didn’t show the least shame in announcing their electoral triumph in the 153 municipalities of the country, thus increasing the centralization of power and strengthening their structures for party control and repression at all levels,” it underlined.

Blue and White Unity urges continuing the pressure on the regime

Meanwhile, after the results of the “elections” were announced, the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB) urged the international community “to continue exerting political, diplomatic and economic-financial pressure” on the Ortega-Murillo regime.

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, casting their votes at the polling place located in Managua’s Central University of Nicaragua. Photo from the Office of the Presidency

“The farcical municipal elections were rejected by the population, who remained absent from the voting centers. As they did a year ago [general elections], they closed their doors and emptied the streets. Once again, the isolation and aloneness of the Ortega camp was made evident,” noted the UNAB in their press declaration.

The National Unity denounced the official party: “In their zeal to achieve some kind of affluence at the polls so as to be able to give some legitimacy to the farce, in run-up to the elections they jailed at least 19 people.”

In addition, “They blackmailed and pressured independent citizens, ordered the State employees, soldiers and police to participate in the farce,” their statement continued.

In Nicaragua, the UNAB warned, “there are no elections under Ortega,” and “there can’t be any, while more than 220 people are political prisoners and the civil liberties are cut off; while the country suffers under a de facto police state; while tens of thousands of Nicaraguans flee the country and migrate for political reasons.”

The organization invited “the citizenry to maintain their civic resistance and their denunciations of the regime across every inch of the nation.” They “demanded” that the dictatorship totally and unconditionally liberate the political prisoners, with guarantees for all, including the 19 people who were abducted in the context of this electoral farce.”

Kitty Monterrey, president of the outlawed Citizens for Liberty Party, avoided any mention of the electoral farce, merely commenting on Twitter: “We Nicaraguans must continue demanding free, transparent and observed elections.”

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