Once torn by civil war and economic hardships, Nicaragua has come far since the troubled days of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990 brought a change in leadership that helped bolster democratic institutions, advance national reconciliation, stabilize the economy and protect human rights.
The picture grew brighter with a peaceful transfer of power after elections in 1996 and 2001. It is regrettable that the current government of President Daniel Ortega, who came to power through elections in 2006, seems to be reneging on its embrace of the democratic process with actions that cast doubt on the transparency, inclusiveness, and fairness of upcoming municipal elections.
The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, the FSLN, holds a majority of mayoral posts and city council seats around the country, and it appears intent on using extra-political means to keep it that way. Two opposition political parties have been barred from fielding candidates in the balloting. Local police have raided the offices of non-governmental organizations working to promote respect for human rights, the rule of law and economic development.
With just a week until voting gets under way, the government has yet to accredit credible domestic and international observers who, as in past elections, work to ensure that the process is free and fair.
Along with political rights, Nicaragua's constitution guarantees freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and association. Are these at risk now too?
The United States calls on the Government of Nicaragua to ensure that the campaign and the election will be free of intimidation, violence and harassment of all citizens wishing to exercise their right to vote.