An Electoral Calendar Tailored to Ortega

Roberto Rivas issues the call to elections and presents his “associates”

By Alvaro Navarro  (Confidencial)

Roberto Rivas. File photo:
Roberto Rivas. File photo:

HAVANA TIMES – Following several months of uncertainty, Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) has officially convoked the national elections for November 6 and have published a calendar with the most important dates in the electoral process.

This process will culminate with the naming of a President and Vice President of the Republic, 20 national deputies, 20 deputies to the Central American Parliament and 70 departmental deputies.

The 10 electoral magistrates, headed by Roberto Rivas, assembled in a Managua hotel to announce the beginning of the electoral process and to introduce several individuals from Mexico, Chile and other countries, presented as “electoral experts” who would “accompany” the political contest.

Rivas also read part of the electoral calendar that was later delivered to the 17 political parties authorized to participate in the voting.  One of the points that the chief CSE magistrate emphasized was the dates for correction and verification of the voter registration rolls, programmed for the weekend of June 25-26.

According to the electoral tribunal’s document, July 22 and 25 were earmarked for registering political alliances and July 28 – August 2 for presenting each group’s candidates for President, Vice President and National Assembly representatives.

From September 30 to October 7, the political parties can present their members who will serve in the local polling places. Also on October 7, they will present the list of poll-watchers who oversee the voting for each political group.  August 20 is the opening date of the electoral campaign, and the last day for electoral propaganda is November 2, four days prior to voting.

It’s noteworthy that although the elections will be held on November 6 as has been foreseen, the Electoral Council stipulates November 14 – eight days later – as the deadline for the “provisional publication of the results” of the voting.

Zero Observers

Despite the many voices clamoring for professional electoral observation – over 80% according to the polls – the CSE calendar contains no reference to the possibility of convoking any of the international or national organizations to participate as observers, as has occurred in past elections.

Rivas’ announcement provoked criticism from the so-called National Coalition for Democracy, which is led by the Liberal Independent Party (PLI).  This political grouping, composed of several opposition parties and movements, issued a communiqué in which they questioned the fact that “the Electoral Calendar doesn’t even mention national or international electoral observation, which is fundamental in beginning to return some credibility to an electoral system that has been discredited by multiple frauds.”

The alliance led by the PLI had additional cause for disapproval: “During his press conference, Rivas tried to hide behind a curtain of smoke by citing the academic credentials of a group of international experts, either invited or contracted directly by the Supreme Electoral Council itself.”

The document put out by the opposition parties and movements insisted that “the presence of these electoral experts, their professional qualities notwithstanding, is not a substitute for the electoral observation that the Law stipulates.  We reiterate our demand that international organizations such as the European Union, the Organization of American States and the Carter Center, which have observed past electoral processes over more than a decade, be invited immediately.  It would seem that the political functionaries of this regime fear their presence,” berated the opposition in their written statement.

They also complained that the calendar announced by Roberto Rivas doesn’t call for the publication of the electoral norms and rules, or of the manuals to guide the process.  “We have demanded the complete publication of these guidelines, to guarantee that the rules of the game are made public and to avoid having the CSE publish them bit by bit, late and in an arbitrary form as they have done in the past,” states the Coalition’s pronouncement.

Finally, they pointed out that the electoral calendar doesn’t mention the publication on the CSE’s website of the voter registration rolls and the voting results from each polling place, as the law dictates.

Meanwhile, Jorge Irías, spokesperson for the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC), limited his comments to saying that his party wasn’t taken by surprise by the CSE’s call.  “We’re ready with our personnel to head into the elections.”

For her part, Rosa Marina Zelaya, ex-President of the CSE, commented that the CSE summons “comes pretty late, considering that this is an extremely important process in which the authorities of this country are going to be elected.”

Zelaya also urged the electoral magistrates to include in the definitive calendar the dates for inviting the international observers, because “you need to offer guarantees to the people of Nicaragua and the international community that this will be a transparent process.”

Dionisio Palacios, former functionary of the CSE, was concerned that the calendar didn’t establish sufficient time for the political parties to correct the list of poll-watchers in case a name was contested, and that it also fails to make clear when the Step-by-Step manual will be published, “so that the parties have enough time to train all their poll-watchers and electoral personnel.”

The poll-watchers

During his announcement, Magistrate Rivas presented Mirna Benita Siles as the person named by Attorney General Ana Julia Guido to oversee the work of electoral poll-watching.

Siles’ professional record includes prosecution of the miners from the El Limón mine who last October defied the government of comandante Ortega and occupied the town for several days, facing down the riot squads from the National Police.

In July of last year, Siles was the prosecutor of the police for the massacre at Las Jagüitas, which according to the families of the victims “was a circus” in which the prosecution conspired in favor of the police who had perpetrated the massacre.

In 2007, Siles prosecuted nine feminists, members of women’s organizations, who were accused of promoting an abortion in the case of “Rosita”, a child who had been raped.