Nicaragua’s Questioned Elections
“They fail to comply with the universal electoral principles”
By Maynor Salazar (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The Electoral Panorama consortium, made up of Ethics and Transparency, the Chinandega Women’s Movement, the Leadership Institute of the Segovias and the Association of Community Volunteers, affirmed they will be observing the electoral process this Sunday, November 6th, despite not being officially accredited by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).
Roberto Courtney, director of Ethics and Transparency, stated on the Esta Noche [Tonight] television show that the experience they’ve gained from observing other elections – also without official accreditation – has allowed them to refine their tools for this process.
“In 2008, despite not being accredited by the CSE, we were able to verify the electoral fraud. I recall that one day before the elections the CSE gave the number of voters for each polling place; however, upon analyzing the results we found that in some of them one party had won with a greater quantity of votes,” Courtney stated. He added that the response from the electoral apparatus upon being confronted with this discovery was to stop giving out information on the results from each polling place, and refusing requests for copies of the official voting tallies.
The director of Ethics and Transparency assured that they have 500 volunteers who will be reporting everything that happens at the polling places. “It’s a great advantage for us to be able to observe the elections as citizens, since this allows us to move freely throughout the country, to enter into the polling places and in this way confirm whether the State is complying with the electoral principles,” Courtney emphasized.
“It will also be important to observe if there have been improvements, and to note what is salvageable in the electoral process,” he continued.
The Panorama Electoral consortium has published their reports regarding the electoral campaign this election year. Courtney informed that they’ll present their balance sheet after finalizing their observations this November sixth.
“The Electoral Law mandates official observation, but that won’t be occurring. The things that were pointed out from past elections haven’t been corrected. As a matter of fact, we could even add the fact that the opposition has been deprived of a political party and of a space on the ballot to compete in the presidential race,” Courtney reflected.
“Indications point towards this being the fourth consecutive election with serious breaches of the principles of the Electoral Law and of the minimal international requirements for carrying out electoral processes. For example, the Electoral Law is very clear about prohibiting the use of State resources to support a political campaign; this represents a violation of article 175, and the sanction for this is two years in prison and the loss of candidacy for those candidates who advertise in the state organs. Yet in all of the municipalities our observers have reported this problem to us. The CSE could act in their official capacity to penalize this violation, but they don’t do so,” noted the Ethics and Transparency director.
Another indication is that even though the Electoral Commissions in charge of issuing the cédulas [official identity cards] have functioned well, the government party still continues making use of their power to actually deliver the ID cards. The observers from the consortium have also noted that in the electoral tables overseeing each polling place there are three members of the same party; this is illegal and leads them to think that this will be the fourth election with serious deficiencies in terms of the failure to comply with universal democratic election processes.
“The Electoral Law mandates official observation, but that won’t be occurring. The things that were pointed out from past elections haven’t been corrected. As a matter of fact, we could even add the fact that the opposition has been deprived of a political party and of a space on the ballot to compete in the presidential race,” Courtney reflected. “An aggravating factor in the situation is that the magistrates on the Supreme Electoral Council were proposed by the governing party and elected by the Sandinista deputies.”
Opposition also to observe the electoral process
The political organization Citizens for Freedom, coordinated by former presidential candidate Luis Callejas, will also be observing the presidential elections.
Callejas explained that they will coordinate citizens’ observations at the voting centers and these volunteers will report any anomalies they note in the polling places, documenting everything with photos and notes.
Some Nicaraguans will go to the polls in general elections on Sunday, November 6, to reelect Daniel Ortega and his wife as the new VP while others will stay home and protest the uncontested elections.
“Citizen participation will be difficult to measure. They’re not going to allow us an official presence in the voting centers, but we’re going to do what we can. We’ll have other activities when the voting is finalized, since we want to see the official tallies of the votes and document some of them,” Callejas emphasized.
The former candidate for the presidency declared that these elections “are anomalies, because they already have the results; the only thing they lack is the actual voting in order to announce those prefabricated results.”
“The majority of the Nicaraguans won’t go out to vote. They’re aware of the farce that will take place on Sunday. The people want to see clean, transparent and observed elections. The only ones who are going to go out and vote, under pressure, are the State workers. We even know that on Monday following the elections, the worker that doesn’t appear with his thumb marked will be sanctioned.” [Upon voting in Nicaragua, the thumb is dipped in indelible ink to prevent the voter from casting another ballot].
With respect to the visit that the OEA will make in the upcoming days, the coordinator of Citizens for Freedom declared that what this organization wants is for the country to comply with article 20 of the Inter-American Charter, to hold clean and transparent elections.
“They aren’t coming to observe the elections. There’s very little time for them to prepare. They’re coming for other reasons, to take preliminary notes on the issue for the conversations that they’re scheduled to hold with the government.” Callejas assured.
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