“The reform excludes international observation, constitutional reforms and changes to facilitate registration of new parties or alliances”
HAVANA TIMES – Sources linked to the Sandinista Front party revealed to Confidencial that President Ortega created a working group to design a draft reform to the Electoral Law, strictly focused on aspects of a “technical nature.” “Commander Ortega and comrade Rosario have already directed the elaboration of a reform project. This will be ready for internal discussion in the next two weeks,” said the source.
On Tuesday, October 20, a day before the session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) that debated the Nicaraguan political crisis, a meeting was held between FSLN parliamentary leaders and Sandinista Supreme Court magistrates, with Ortega and Rosario Murillo, his wife, vice president and spokesperson for the regime.
According to the source, at the meeting Ortega gave the green light for the National Assembly to approve the Special Cybercrimes Law. Additionally, he gave the go ahead to consider the constitutional reform proposal introducing life sentences for “hate crimes.”
Moreover, the source revealed that Ortega ordered the creation of a working group of deputies and magistrates, whose members were not identified. Their job is to prepare a proposal to reform the electoral law, within a period of three weeks. The proposal would be approved in this political body before being presented to the Assembly.
“The president gave some specific guidance on what the reform should contain,” said the source. He specified that it should focus on technical aspects of the law, such as the electoral rolls, the composition of the voting station officials and the role of election monitors.
According to the inside FSLN source, Ortega excluded explicitly that the reforms contemplate changes in the composition of the current Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), or that they include constitutional reforms, as proposed by the civic Electoral Reforms Promoter Group.
Ortega’s order also excludes changes in the legislation on the requirements for registering political parties, or electoral alliances. According to the source, the president also mentioned the issue of international electoral observation. He indicated this is a matter “he will decide at another time,” and shouldn’t be included in the reform bill.
Regarding the legislative calendar, Ortega said the constitutional reform on the life-imprisonment sentence should be approved first.
But Ortega did not specify whether the electoral reform would be approved in 2020 or 2021. He only decided that the electoral reform will only be discussed with “the parties that have parliamentary representation,” leaving open the possibility that the consultation also cover “those who have legal status.” “The decision will be made by them (Ortega and Murillo) later on,” said the source.
The proposal of the Election Reform Promoter Group
Ortega’s electoral reform project for the 2021 elections does not recognize any of the preconditions demanded by the Pro-Electoral Reform Group. Their proposal includes the release of political prisoners and the restoration of democratic freedoms. These were agreed with the different opposition groups and have the endorsement of the business sector.
The Group maintains that under the current electoral system there are no conditions to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections. They further note that the regime has also violated the right to national and international electoral observation.
Nicaragua’s electoral system deteriorated over the last two decades through reforms that led to the institutional collapse of the Supreme Electoral Council, which only serves the interests of the ruling party. The government has completely ignored the findings of National and International electoral observation missions. These bodies concluded that the elections in Nicaragua do not respect the popular vote due to corruption and secrecy. They cite the integration of electoral structures, the administration of the electoral rolls, and the counting of votes.
The Pro-reforms Electoral Group proposal includes twelve reforms of which four require a constitutional reform.
The reforms contemplate the election of new CSE magistrates, to guarantee the management of an independent, professional, and transparent electoral process. Unrestricted electoral observation in accordance with international standards is another key point. A single comprehensive and audited electoral roll and the mandatory reincorporation of citizens verification are others.
Likewise, an adequate identification process that guarantees all citizens their right to have their citizen identity card free of charge. The group suggests the modernization of technological systems to guarantee the transmission, processing and dissemination of election results in real time and detailed by each Voter Reception Board (JRV).
Other proposals include facilities to legalize new political parties, which allow a plural and broad participation. At the same time, autonomy of electoral alliances, allowing them to choose their own name, banner, emblem, ballot checkbox and legal representation according to their statutes. They shouldn’t be forced for voting purposes to go under the name of one of the parties that comprise them.
The OAS Resolution
On October 21, the OAS General Assembly approved with 20 out of 34 votes a resolution on Nicaragua that reiterates the concern of the international community about the deterioration of democratic institutions and urges the Government of Nicaragua “to fully respect the constitutional order, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The OAS document emphasized the need to modernize the CSE. This would include the Government “accepting the broad and effective deployment of electoral observation missions with independent and accredited international observers in the electoral process.” “The legitimacy of the next Nicaraguan Government is at stake and that is crucial,” warned General Secretary Luis Almagro.
However, the reform proposal that Ortega entrusted to his political operators in the National Assembly and the Supreme Court contradicts the demands to democratize the electoral process. Voting is scheduled for the first Sunday in November 2021.