Regional Elections in Nicaragua: Between Mistrust and Abstention

By Confidential

Foto: the North Atlantic regional government seat in Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi). By Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – A total of 19 political organizations, eight of them grouped in two alliances, will participate in the 2019 Regional Elections in the two Atlantic Coast autonomous regions of Nicaragua on Sunday March 3. They will elect 45 council members in each region.

The vote takes place in the context of the sociopolitical crisis in Nicaragua resulting from the brutal repression of citizen protests against the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. With a lack of confidence in the electoral system and the null change in the Supreme Electoral Council, abstention may be greater than the usual in these partial elections.

“It is very difficult to summon the population to an election with the same Electoral Council, which has no credibility, immersed in a political crisis of which we have no idea how we are going to get out of it. It is very difficult, especially taking into account the high abstention that has always manifested, since 1998, in the Regional Elections,” said Jose Antonio Peraza, political analyst and director of the group Movement for Nicaragua.

Peraza added that, in these elections, with a biased CSE in favor of the Ortega regime, power is not in dispute, and since this item is not on the agenda in this electoral process, participation in regional elections does not make any sense.

In Bluefields, where five constituencies are located, the political parties have tried to attract the population to vote in the regional elections, however, citizens are affected by the national context after ten months of the crisis.

Dolene Miller, an Afro-descendant Creole citizen of Bluefields, said that on the eve of the regional elections, two environments are perceived: that of the city and that of the municipalities. In the communities the population is more attentive to want to vote and, in the city, it is a different manifestation. Of course, in both there is some fear of electoral fraud.

“The population is afraid of fraud because thirteen days before regional elections, we have seen how the National Assembly has reformed Article 196 of the Electoral Law, and in addition to that did not take into account that the Autonomy Law [for the Atlantic Coast regions] has an article that defines who are the ones who can vote in these elections,” Miller said.

The participation of the parties

A total of 19 political organizations, eight of them grouped in two alliances, will participate in the elections that will take place Sunday, March 3rd. The United Alliance Nicaragua Triunfa, led by the governing Sandinista Front, brings together six political organizations. The Liberal Independent Party (PLI), leads a coalition of two movements while the other eleven political groups participate on their own. Those who identify themselves as opposition argue that they are obliged to participate in order to preserve their legal status.

Carlos Canales, president and legal representative of the APRE alliance, pointed out the importance of all political parties participating in these elections, because “they are of great importance for the consolidation of democracy and development in the Caribbean Coast of the country.

The members of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) [led by former president Arnoldo Aleman who has a longstanding power-enabling pact with Daniel Ortega] expressed that they are prepared to respond to the observations made by the Electoral Power and stated that his party would not carry out any challenges to candidates. “It’s an electoral contest. It is a civic party, a local festival and we are going to compete among the best,” said Paul Gonzalez, representative of the PLC on the Caribbean Coast.

The indigenous political group Yatama, which was linked in previous electoral processes with the FSLN, confirmed its participation in the Regional Elections. Its leader and deputy before the National Assembly, Brooklyn Rivera, said that they held consultations with the bases and that the majority were in favor of going to the elections, even if it was “under protest”.

“We have repeatedly insisted that there aren’t conditions in the entire Mosquitia to carry out the Regional Elections. However, in this consultation in the two Atlantic Coast regions the majority of the population tends to believe that they should participate in these elections, unlike what we leaders believe. We are in a situation in which our principle is to lead by obeying the grassroots and that is why we are participating,” said Rivera.