Fears that the Nicaraguan government would ride roughshod in the country’s recent municipal election appear to have been validated, with widespread reports of violence and election fraud. The November 9th vote came at an important moment in Nicaragua’s democracy and the irregularities are a disappointing setback in the process.
Voters cast ballots for 146 mayors around the country, and according to the still incomplete tally the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front has won most of the races, including in the capital, Managua. Two opposition political parties were barred from fielding candidates and for the first time since 1990 the government did not allow independent observers at the polling stations.
Nicaraguan business and church groups have complained that local election officials in some communities conducted the vote count improperly and in some cases the announced vote totals did not match figures on the national election council’s Internet Web page. A Nicaraguan civic group that posted volunteers at polling places around the country reported irregularities at 32 percent of the locations it monitored. Street protests have been staged in Managua and some other cities.
The Nicaraguan government can best address these concerns and put the complaints to rest by conducting a national recount in the presence of credible domestic and international observers. If the elections were truly a referendum on the government of President Daniel Ortega, as many believed leading up to the voting, the government can affirm its support for democracy and the rule of law by resolving the electoral crisis in a free and fair manner.