Nicaraguan Opposition Group: “A Clean and Transparent Election is Impossible”

The Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) issues its second evaluation of the electoral process.

Members of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) meeting in Pantasma. Foto: Confidencial

With the 2017 municipal elections just 3 months away, one sector of the opposition insists that none of the conditions for a transparent process have been met.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – “As of this date there’ve been no changes indicating a guarantee of respect for the citizens’ votes,” in the 2017 municipal elections, planned for November 5th in 153 localities in the country. This is the declaration of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), a group that presented their second report this week, including an evaluation of the conditions under which the voting will take place in under three months’ time.

The opposition group assures that “the FSLN has consolidated its absolute control over the electoral structures, and this will allow them to manage the process and its results however they please.”

They further insist that “the fraud has already been set up and a clean and transparent balloting is inconceivable,” because in their judgment: “the Ortega people have already arranged everything necessary to manipulate any adverse results.”

Next November’s municipal elections will be the third ones organized under Daniel Ortega’s administration. And from 2008 until the present, the governing Sandinista Front’s quota in power as seen on the political map of the country has increased from 80 municipalities to more than 110.

This year there are two other parties aspiring to win the majority in some fifty plus municipalities: Citizens for Freedom (CxL) and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC). Nevertheless, the FAD, which is made up of parties that lack legal status, sustains that the results will be “manipulated” in the FSLN’s favor.

Among the adverse conditions noted by the FAD are a number of flaws that have also been pointed out by certain national organizations, such as Electoral Panorama. These organizations were set up for electoral observations but not accredited by the Supreme Electoral Council.  Meanwhile, the mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) that was supposed to be set up in the country hasn’t given any sign of life since last May, when its representatives staged an abrupt exit from the country.

  1. “Denial of the right to organize and participate”

The FAD sustains that there’s been a “judicialization” of the internal conflicts of political organizations such as the Citizens’ Action Party (PAC).  This party has been unable to resolve, an on-going dispute between Moises Hassan, formerly a member of the original 1979 government junta, and a younger man, Mario Valenti. regarding who has the right to legally represent it.

In addition, in 2008 the Supreme Electoral Council canceled the legal status of the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) with no resolution of the dispute up until the present, although the CSE did restore the legal status of the Conservative Party, which had had it canceled around that same time.

  1. Continuing complaints of party partiality in the process of issuing national identity cards.

The FAD and other civil society organizations, among them the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, maintain that the right of citizens to obtain in equal conditions their identity documents continues to be denied, principally in the municipalities in the North of the country where the governing party is still in the minority.

  1. Unfair Competition

The third argument of the opposition group is that reimbursements for campaign expenses during the 2016 presidential election – a process dominated by Ortega together with his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo – “have been managed in secrecy and utilized to reward the legal representatives of parties that kowtow to them.” The reimbursements, they add, are “discretionary and untimely.”

  1. Supreme Electoral Council and electoral structures are partisan

Ever since the 2008 municipal elections, and more insistently since the 2011 national elections, national and international organizations for electoral observation such as Ethics and Transparency, the Carter Center, the OAS and the European Union have insisted on the necessity of removing party partisanship from Nicaragua’s electoral system, currently controlled by the FSLN.

With less than three months to go before the 2017 municipal elections, the Broad Front for Democracy affirms that the structures of the municipal, departmental and regional Electoral Councils continue to be “controlled by the regime” and calculate that the same thing will occur – as they have previously denounced – when the official Polling Stations or electoral tables are set up.

“FSLN control was consolidated over all of the electoral structures, assigning a party figure as head of elections in the most heavily populated departments and municipalities, and naming the second in command from among the ranks of their allied and flunky parties, while attributing to itself the majority of members, so as to impose their decisions,” affirms the FAD.

In addition, they complain that “in the places where the minority forces should control the presidency of the local electoral boards, the media have reported that these officials were deposed of all authority and removed from leadership, with the FSLN then appointing the entire staff.”

In the same way, the group insists that there’ve been “continued threats and blackmail aimed at the presidents and prominent party members designated as the runner-up force; these have lodged complaints that they’ve been separated from their functions and reduced to the role of mere observers.” Newspaper reports from 2016 registered at least four cases of this in different departments.

  1. Absence of controls in the voting and vote-counting process

The opposition group also objects to “the failure to purge the electoral roles, and the lack of verification at the level of the local polling places. This will make it impossible to count on a credible and uniform list of voters that is available to all participants.”

The updating of the registration list is one of the tasks that the OAS mission had proposed. This mission was supposed to come to the country to observe the municipal electoral process in 2017. Nevertheless, it’s not known whether the OAS has obtained the financing it requested for realizing its mission.

The FAD denounced that the electoral calendar doesn’t contemplate any days for verification of voters at the level of the individual polling places. According to the group, “it’s impossible for thousands of voters to be verified, due to the difficulties they face in traveling to the municipal offices and standing in long lines. This means that the practice of maintaining voting roles which exclude many legitimate voters for supporting the opposition, for being under aged, and other duplicities and transfers will continue, a situation which only favors the government party.

  1. Deficiencies in the Electoral Law

Another of the arguments of this opposition sector is the partiality of the Supreme Electoral Council, and the electoral structures towards the governing party, since “changes in the national structures of the Supreme Electoral Council have still not been carried out, and the FSLN has consolidated their absolute control and domination of all the electoral structures.”

Electoral Observation has been restricted and obstacles have been erected

Finally, the FAD maintains that conditions and guarantees for broad international observation are lacking. As of this date it’s not known “if the OAS has obtained sufficient funds for their observation.” They emphasize that it’s also unknown whether other organizations like the Carter Center or the European Union have been invited to observe the voting process.